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Ace. *No. 

Printed in Great Britain by Bichard Clay andCompany, Ltd 
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Foreword vii 

Introduction 1 1 


1 Cannibalism among the Fiji Islanders 22 

2 Human Sacrifice among the Aztecs 4.1 

3 Custom and Myth among the Kwakiutl Indians 52 

4 Cannibals in the Amazon Basin 69 

5 Cannibalism among Nigerian Tribesmen 81 

6 The Leopard Societies of Sierra Leone 94 

7 Cannibalism in the Congo Basin 102 

8 Head-hunters and Human Sacrifice in Indonesia 1 1 7 

9 New Guinea: ‘Revenge’ Cannibalism and Tabu 128 

10 Cannibal Practices among the Melanesians 144 

11 Cannibal Practices among the Polynesians 157 

12 Cannibalism among the Australian Blackfellows 167 

13 Cannibal Practices among the Maori of New 

Zealand 173 

Postscript Cannibalism Today 188 

Bibliography 193 

Index 195 


It may well be asked: What purpose is served by the writing 
of a book on such a subject as cannibahsm? Indeed, this was 
my own reaction when my publisher invited me to undertake 
the task. 

There is, however, a quite simple answer to the question: 
No book covering the subject generally exists in the English 
language. Inquiries from the Royal Anthropological Institute 
of Great Britain and Ireland ehcited the reply: ‘We know of 
no comprehensive work on cannibalism. The material on 
the subject is unfortunately scattered through many books and 

Subsequent inquiries at the British Museum met with the 
same result : on the 8o miles of shelves in that incomparable 
library of 8,000,000 books, there is no single work in the English 
language that covers the immense field of cannibalism and 
human sacrifice. The Germans would appear to be the only 
people who have made any attempt to deal comprehensively 
with the subject on a large scale, and the work in question hcis 
not been translated into English. 

To collect, check, classify, compare and contrast the enor- 
mous amount of material that is, as the Librarian of the Royal 
Anthropological Institute said, scattered through books and 
periodicals involved more time and energy than was at first 
anticipated. Material was forthcoming in the unlikehest 
places — much of it in the form of diaries and letters written by 
missionaries in ink that would often seem to have been home 
made and on flimsy paper stained by damp, by sea-water, by 
rough handling from messengers on land and crews on the 
packet-boats that brought such missives back to England a 
hundred or a hundred-and-fifty years ago. Many of these 
were deeply moving: to read between the lines written with 
those spidery pens was a sobering experience. More than one of 
the writers had just seen their wives and children brutally 
massacred and worse, and well knew that a hke fate probably 




awaited them too — perhaps before their letters were delivered 
at the London headquarters of their missions. 

I take pleasure in here acknowledging a great deal of co- 
operation, aU of it most willingly given. 

First and foremost, that of Mr B. J. Kirkpatrick, Librarian 
of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and 
Ireland, to whom I applied in the first instance for advice, and 
who responded with a list of potentially fruitful titles among 
the books in his and other libraries. 

Secondly, that of the staff of the British Museum, who were 
relentless in their search for titles that might prove rewarding, 
and who bore patiently with my nigghng persistence and 
demands for clarification on matters of detail; as always, no 
trouble was too great for them to take. 

Thirdly, the librarians and archivists of the many Missionary 
Societies and similar bodies who placed desks and shelves at 
my disposal, spent many hours looking up possible material 
and making inquiries on my behalf from kindred organisations, 
and in some cases allowed me to take home with me irreplace- 
able volumes that, strictly, should not have passed outside the 
safety of their premises. 

Of these, I would particularly like to thank by name the 
following; — Monsignor Shaw and Miss Margaret Walsh, of 
the Association for the Propagation of the Faith; the Rev. 
A. S. Clement, of the Baptist Missionary Society; Miss Joan 
Ferrier, of the Church Missionary Society; Mr C. D. Overton, 
Deputy Librarian of the Colonial Office Library; Miss Ruth 
Jones, Librarian at the International African Institute; Miss 
Irene Fletcher, of the London Missionary Society; Miss MoUie 
Allen, of the Melanesian Mission; Miss Joan Anderson, 
Archivist of the Methodist Missionary Society; Mr G. L. 
Keeble, Librarian at New Zealand House; Mr J. Skidmore, 
of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Mrs 
Margaret de Satge, Archivist of the Society for the Propagation 
of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; Miss Aphra Ward, Librarian 
of the South American Missionary Society. 

With these names should be coupled all those members of 
their staffs who, unknown to me, did so much spade-work in 
searching the remote shelves of libraries and other repositories 
of records on my behalf. 



I should like, finally, to emphasise that wherever a theory is 
propounded or a conclusion drawn in the pages that follow, 
unless it is attributed to some specific authority it is my own. 
Not one of the individuals or organisations listed among these 
acknowledgements should be held in any way responsible for 
anything of the kind; the responsibihty for any errors of 
statement or conclusion is mine alone. 

G. H. 

Groombridge, Sussex. 


I AM grateful for permission to quote from the following: 

W. H. Allen & Co., Ltd, for In the Shadow of the Mau Mau, 
by lone Leigh; Angus & Robertson, Ltd, for The Australian 
Aborigines, by A. P. Elkin, and Adam in Ochre, by C. Simpson; 
The Royal Society, for The Bagesu and Other Tribes of the Uganda 
Protectorate, by J. Roscoe ; Cassell & Co., Ltd, for The Scourge 
of the Swastika, by Lord Russell of Liverpool; Andre Deutsch 
Ltd, for Easter Island, by Alfred Metraux; Robert Hale, Ltd, 
for ^aft[abuku, by Lewis Cotlow, and Call of the Jungle, by H. C. 
Engert; William Heinemaim, Ltd, for A Voice from the Congo, 
by Edmund Ward; Hutchinson & Co., Ltd, for Whispering 
Wind, by Syd Kyle-Little; Michael Joseph, Ltd, for The Last 
Cannibals, by Jens Bjerre; Longmans Green & Co., Ltd, for 
A Policeman's Lot, by H. Soderman; Macmillan & Co., Ltd, 
for Islands of Enchantment, by F. Coombe, Melanesians and Poly- 
nesians, by G. Brown, and Savage Life in Central Australia, by G. 
Alston and G. Horne; The Clarendon Press, Oxford, for 
Orokaiva Society, by F. E. Williams; Dr C. K. Meek and Rout- 
ledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd, for Tribal Studies in Northern Nigeria', 
Dr C. K. Meek and The Clarendon Press, Oxford, for The 
Northern Tribes of Nigeria; G. P. Putnam’s Sons for In the 
Amazon Jungle, by Algot Lange; Seeley Service & Co., Ltd, 
for Among the Ibos of Nigeria, by G. T. Basden, A Church in the 
Wilds, by W. B. Grubb, and In the Isles of King Solomon, by A. I. 
Hopkins; Edward Stanford, Ltd, for South America, by A. H. 
Keane ; Whitcomb and Tombs, for The Old Whaling Days, by 
Robert McNab; H. F. & G. Witherby, Ltd, for Wanderings 
Among South Sea Savages, by H. W. Walker; Routledge & 
Kegan Paul, Ltd, for The Melanesians of British New Guinea, by 
C. G. Seligmann; The African Institute, for an article by 
E. E. Evans-Pritchard in vol. 26 of Africa. 


Fundamentally, man is a carnivorous animal: he eats 
flesh. By instinct, tradition and indeed choice, the over- 
whelming majority of the world’s population of 2,500,000,000 
are flesh eaters. In a way this is surprising; for the supply of 
flesh at any one time is vastly exceeded by the total amount of 
vegetable foodstuffs — vegetables, roots, herbage, and so on — 
available to him. And what is more, few vegetables have the 
power to resist capture and consumption that most animals 

There are very few types of living creature on the face of the 
earth that Man has not sampled. He eats beefsteak, mutton 
chops, lamb cutlets, calves’ brains, ox tongue, bacon and ham, 
besides countless cuts from animals less familiar: kangaroo, 
wallaby, monkey and bear. Like Rudyard Kipling’s ‘ Noble 
and Generous Cetacean’, he eats ‘the starfish and the garfish, 
and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the 
skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the really truly twirly- 
whirly eel’. During and immediately after the Second World 
War, indeed, he became reconciled to the sight, if not the taste, 
of the whale itself. And of course in various latitudes and 
longitudes he has eaten octopus and squid and, perhaps without 
even knowing it, the 200,ooo,ooo-year-old coelacanth itself. 

There are few species of bird that he has not snared or shot 
and then cooked and devoured, from the ostrich and emu to the 
skylark and the humming-bird. Indeed, such is Man’s greed 
for flesh that he has explored the possibihties of smaller creatures 
than these — and found himself in a territory whose inhabitants, 
in variety alone, pass the resource of man to compute. 

Everyone knows that John the Baptist survived in the desert 
on a menu of locusts and wild honey. He was, however, only 
one man out of untold millions who, down the ages, have 
looked upon the locust as food. By some it has been regarded 
as a spicialite de la maison. Seventy years ago. Queen Ranava- 
lona of Madagascar employed a band of servants whose sole 
duty it was to search the fields so that she and her guests at her 


Tananarive palace might glut themselves on locusts. Three 
thousand years earher, in his palace at Nineveh, King Asur- 
banipal had locusts served on sticks so that his guests could eat 
them much as we eat chipolata sausages and other titbits at our 
own parties today. 

For the great majority of people fortunate (if that is the word) 
enough to live in countries where the locust occurs, this insect is 
a staple of their diet still. In Tanganyika, locusts have their 
wings and legs removed and are then roasted or fried in butter; 
alternatively, they are dried and used for flavouring porridge. 
More sophisticated connoisseurs, in North Africa, season locusts 
with nutmeg, pepper and salt, and boil them as soup; alterna- 
tively, they are allow'ed to go cold, then pounded with fried 
breadcrumbs or rice puree, and put in a saucepan to thicken 
into a broth. The taste of cooked locust has been compared 
with that of shrimps, boiled egg-yolk, hazel-nuts, crayfish- 
bisque, and even caviare ! 

Nor is the locust the most surprising species of food that Man 
has discovered in this vast territory. In the Belgian Congo, 
fided termites are sold in basketfuls. A distinguished British 
traveller recently reported that termites, fried with butter, make 
a delicious meal. An earlier traveller described how the natives 
dry the termites in iron pots in the same way as coflTee is roasted. 
They consider them a delectable food, with or without sauce, 
eaten by the handful. And, as though to emphasise his point, 
he added : “I have eaten them this way several times and think 
them delicate, nourishing and wholesome; they are sweeter 
than, but not so cloying as, the maggot of the Rjnchopkorus 
palmarum, which is served up at all the luxurious tables of West 

Ants, too, are widely appreciated; especially the so-called 
‘sugar-ant’ found in Central Australia. These ants select 
from among their numbers certain individuals whom they 
forcibly feed until their stomachs swell to the size of gooseberries. 
The contents of their stomachs consist of the exudations of cer- 
tain plants and the honey-dew of certain insects. When they 
come across these ants, the Australians grip them one at a time 
by the head, squeeze the stomach between their front teeth and 
suck it dry. They will teU you that the taste is one of strong 
contrast — and all the better for that : first the sharp sting of the 


formic acid, and then, as the taut membrane bursts, the sweet- 
ness and fragrance of pure honey. 

In Indonesia, Malaya, Madagascar, the Belgian Congo and 
elsewhere, the palm-worm is considered a delicacy. The 
creature lives in the heart of the palm-tree, and, says a French 
gourmet, “may be compared with a lump of fat from a capon, 
wrapped in a very tender, transparent peUicle”. These palm- 
worms, half an inch thick and perhaps two inches long, are 
heated gently over the fire. When they are sufficiently warmed, 
they are sprinkled with breadcrumbs, pepper and muscat. 
Alternatively they may be boiled and then served with a 
sprinkling of orange or lemon juice. Some connoisseurs prefer 
to eat them raw; others again prefer them fried alive in oil. 

To locusts, termites, ants and palm-worms may be added 
caterpillars and spiders, moths and dragonflies, beetles and 
butterflies; and even then only the fiinge of the vast insect 
kingdom’s resources have been hinted at. Aphides and wasp 
grubs may be added to the list, and a researcher some seventy 
years ago offered an interesting menu for the host who cared to 
entertain his guests with dishes they might not have sampled 
previously. The menu included woodlouse sauce with the 
fned sole, wireworm sauce with the mutton, curried cockchafers, 
cauliflower garnished with caterpillars, and ended with moths 
on toast. Sir Hugh Casson, only the other day, reported that 
fiied wasp appeared regularly on the lunch menus of sophisti- 
cated New York restaurants! 

One type of dish, however, occupied a category distinct from 
all those hitherto mentioned; indeed, distinct from all those 
others which would have to be listed to make the curious cata- 
logue of meat-dishes complete: human flesh. 

There is abundant evidence that from the remotest periods of 
pre-history Man has eaten the flesh of his fellows. In 1927, in 
the Chinese village of Choukoutien, some forty miles south- 
west of Pekin, a single tooth was discovered which enabled the 
anatomist Davidson Black to identify a creature closely related 
to Pithecanthropus erectus, the Javan Ape-man already discovered 
by a Dutch anatomist. Later excavations brought to light 
the bones and skulls of some forty contemporaries of Black’s 
Pithecanthropus Pekinensis, together with a number of their 
weapons and implements. Charred remains of bones lying on 


their hearths gave an insight into this primitive man’s cooking 
habits, and there was clear evidence in some curiously broken- 
up skulls that the brains had been extracted, and cooked. If 
Pekin Man was, as this evidence strongly suggests, an eater of 
human flesh, he was also something of an epicure in this respect. 
And Pekin Man, like Java Man, lived some 500,000 years ago! 

Neanderthal Man, living some 220,000 years ago in Central 
Europe, was almost certainly a cannibal; there is evidence for 
this in the caves and rock shelters of the Dordogne, particularly 
at le Moustier, from which comes the term ‘Mousterian’ 
culture, and from skeletal remains in a Mousterian settlement 
at Krapina, in Croatia. Cro-Magnon Man, living some 
75,000 years ago and called for the first time Homo sapiens, was 
an eater at times of the flesh of his fellows, if one is to judge by 
evidence found in the caves of Aurignac, near Toulouse, from 
which the term ‘Aurignacian’ derives. 

Mesolithic and Neolithic Man, between 10,000 and 2,000 
years B.c., maintained the traditions of their ancestors in this 
respect : there is evidence of this in Switzerland and elsewhere. 
And in the later Bronze Age, when Man first began working 
metal, he was still on occasion an eater of human flesh. Austria, 
among other European countries, offers evidence of this. 

The Greek historian Herodotus, writing about 450 B.C., 
described cannibalistic practices among the Issedones and the 
nomadic Scythian Massagetae, including the deliberate killing 
and devouring of old people of their tribes. It was Herodotus 
who reported also the custom of using dead men’s skulls as 
drmking-cups. Strabo, another Greek historian writing in the 
last years before Christ, declared positively that the eating of 
human flesh was a common practice in Ireland, and St Jerome 
himself, nearly four hundred years later, reported the existence 
of this practice in Scotland, where the Moss-troopers skirmish- 
ing on the Border were also alleged to drink the blood of their 
defeated enemies. 

It is a known fact that during the fighting between the 
Spaniards and the Arabs in the ninth century, the women of 
Elvira cut up and ate the body of Sauwar, an Arab chief 
responsible for the massacre of their menfolk. At the end of 
the thirteenth century young Marco Polo, then only a seven- 
teen-year-old boy, set off" on what was to prove a twenty-four- 



years’ absence from Venice, during which time he travelled 
in the Far East, notably Tartary and China. He, and other 
travellers after him, confirmed that many Chinese and Tibetan 
tribes ate the flesh of their fellows. 

In the year of Shakespeare’s birth, 1564, the Polish hero 
Wfsniowiecki was defeated by the Turks, who then tore out 
his heart and devoured it. In the sixteenth century it was the 
prerogative of the executioners in many European countries to 
retain as their perquisite the blood and certain parts of the body 
of the persons they had executed, to make what use of them they 
would. The Zingaris of Bohemia, according to a ‘rajah’ of 
their tribe, were in the habit of eating human flesh in the eigh- 
teenth century, the most delicate morsels of raw or roasted 
flesh being apparently the ears, the palms of the hands, the 
soles of the feet, the calves and the cheeks. ‘Rajahs’ had the 
privilege of cutting off the heads of prisoners and drinking the 
still warm blood escaping from their veins and arteries. In the 
nineteenth century it was not unusual for a Chinese executioner 
to eat the heart or the brains of his victims. 

These examples are of course for the most part gleaned from 
the older historians, from travellers who brought home tales 
from foreign parts, from soldiers who had campaigned in dis- 
tant lands. To them may be added a great number of cases of 
the eating of human flesh caused by extreme hunger in times of 
siege or famine or shipwreck. Such examples may be multi- 
plied indefinitely, and the majority of them can be easily 
authenticated. But it was not until comparatively recent times 
that the anthropologist began to make a study of the subject, to 
correlate and analyse the evidence and formulate theories in 
connection with it. 

In many cases he was a traveller himself. But he rehed also 
on the information from travellers coming from all over the 
world; from missionaries in widely scattered fields; from ex- 
plorers in ‘Darkest’ Africa, the South American jungles, the 
savage islands of Polynesia and Melanesia; from students of 
folk-lore who took the trouble to learn the language and then 
record the stories and legends of primitive peoples, hke the 
Kwakiuti Indians, for instance, on the North Pacific Coast. 

The amount of information that was thus collected in the 
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was enormous; and 


the variety of authenticated detail was perhaps even more 
remarkable. The practice of eating human flesh was noted in 
almost every part of the world, except Europe, as a recognised 
ingredient of the accepted social order. 

In the Congo, slaves were deliberately fattened for sale as 
food in the markets. In Nigeria, victims’ bodies were cut up 
ceremonially and devoured at native shrines. Fijian chie& 
used to have a meal of human flesh when they had their hair 
cut. Young mothers of the Chavantes tribe in Uruguay 
habitually ate certain of their infants. Dardistan tribesmen 
drank the blood and ate the hearts of human beings. In West 
Africa a sect called the Leopard Society dressed in leopard- 
skins and hunted human beings in the forests, to devour them 
ceremonially when they had run them down and torn their 
throats out. 

In certain parts of Australia the practice was to smoke-dry 
the bodies of the victims and then devour those portions of the 
bodies that had been reduced to liquor or grease by the heat. 
Elsewhere, the practice was to allow bodies to rot, and then 
swallow the products of the putrefying processes as they escaped 
from the corpses. Certain South American tribes reduced the 
corpses to ashes, mixed the ashes with liquid, and swallowed 
the mixture. Some African tribes sold the corpses of their dead 
for food among tribes where food was scarce. A South 
American tribe actually bred children by their captive women 
to ensure a regular supply of human flesh when need arose. 
The variations are endless. 

The practice of eating human flesh, in fact, was found to be 
prevalent in greater or less degree over most of the world. 
From the South Seas to Vancouver, from the West Indies to 
the East Indies, in Polynesia, Melanesia, Australia and New 
Zealand, in North, West, East and Central Africa, in North and 
South America, there was abundant evidence of current 
indulgence in the practice; or at least there were the state- 
ments of men still living who remembered having indulged in 
such practices, or witnessed them, as younger men. 

The older anthropologists used the term ‘anthropophagy’ to 
describe the practice, forming the word from the Greek 
anthropos (man) and phagein (to eat) . The better-known word, 
of course, is canmbalism. This is a corruption of the word 



Carib, the name of a West Indian tribe among whom the prac- 
tice was first noticed by the Spanish conquistadors. Under 
that heading, during the past hundred years or so, an enormous 
amount has been written by anthropologists, especially 
Americans; and it is presumably due to the wealth of strongly 
differentiated material that has been laid before them that 
their theories are so elaborate and often, it will be found, so 
conflicting; though always interesting. 

For example, the American anthropologist Dr Spier wrote: 

Primitive people so frequently aligned men and animals in their 
thinking that it is possible that human flesh was not considered 
significantly different from other foodstuffs. There is probably no 
instinctive aversion to eating it; the horror shovm by civilised, and by 
many primitive, peoples was developed by convention, paralld 
to their aversion to eating other foods considered unorthodox, un- 
clean, or unfit for human consumption, much as the pig and the 
dog are unclean for all Semitic peoples. The abhorrence of such 
foods is an extraordinarily deep emotion, not dictated by 
biological necessity. 

Dr Eric Miller, on the other hand, writing with no less 
authority, took an almost diametrically opposite view. 

Whether (he wrote) the custom arose in a particular area through 
famine conditions, or through occasional dietetic necessity, some 
additional ideological or emotional stimulus is required to over- 
come instinctive repugnance to cannibalism and to confirm it into a 
regular practice. 

But Dr Miller had already made the point that, except in 
cases of famine, where cannibalism may be said to result from a 
single motive, there are nearly always two, or even three, inter- 
woven motives — dietetic, magical, pietistic — to account for the 

Broadly speaking, however, anthropologists are agreed that 
where cannibalism exists as a long-established feature of the 
social life of a community, in whatever part of the world that 
community may be found, it originated in one or other of 
several distinct forms. It may be connected with religious 
ceremonial; it may have magical significance; it may be the 
ultimate result of a temporary and unwelcome farinaceous diet 
which led to experimenting with human flesh as food. This 
last would be a catastrophic form of experiment, for it has been 



widely found that when the taste for human flesh is once in- 
dulged, such taste quickly develops into a fierce and eventually 
unappeasable lust for flesh which no mere animal flesh can ever 
satisfy; thus the stages of degradation in gluttony succeed one 
another inexorably. 

The first two of these motives for cannibalism are of course 
closely interwoven; for religion, magic and superstition are 
virtually interchangeable terms among primitives. But the 
link between these and the crudest motive — that of mere lust 
for human flesh — is close, too; for once give a religious, or 
magical, or pietistic excuse for the devouring of fellow human 
beings, and the demand inevitably grows and grows; and 
supply must follow demand. 

It is extraordinarily interesting — once one has succeeded in 
accepting the morbid aspect of the subject — to note the varia- 
tions among the motives prompting different peoples to indulge 
in cannibalism. For example, certain Afidcan and Australian 
tribes devoured their dead kinsfolk in the belief that this was the 
most flattering method of ‘burying’ them. A group of tribes 
on the North Pacific seaboard ate human flesh as part of an 
elaborate ceremonial designed to establish good relations with 
their tribal gods. The Ovimbundu tribesmen of South-west 
Africa made a banquet off human flesh as a means of ensuring 
good luck for a caravan about to start out on a long trek. 

The Bagesu of the Uganda Protectorate held cannibal feasts 
in order to honour their recent dead, and at these feasts it was a 
regular practice to eat the corpses of their fellow-tribesmen. 
As an act of revenge, of course, the eating of human flesh was 
very widespread indeed. It is easy to see how the mere act of 
eating an enemy produced the maximum degree of satisfaction 
among the victors. In Afiica, in South America, among the 
Hallenga and the Fangs of Gaboon, in much of cannibal 
Melanesia, part or all of the body of an enemy would be de- 
voured as a final gesture of contempt. In some cases the vic- 
tim would be methodically dismembered, an arm or a leg at a 
time, and the limbs would be cooked and eaten in front of him, 
as a supreme gesture of scorn. 

Cannibalism was practised by the Bataks zis a severe form of 
punishment — meted out only to men whose crime was treason 
or, what was looked upon as much the same thing, adultery 



with a Batak chief’s wife. A curious echo of the phrase ‘ to rub 
salt into a wound ’ is seen in this instance : the close relatives of 
the offender were obliged by tribal law to provide salt and lime 
for dressing the victim’s body before the feast could begin, and 
must also be present at the feast. This was in all probability a 
subtle means of preventing the development of a feud between 
the family of the victim and the family which had feasted off 
his corpse. Another aspect was that, by devouring the body 
they would have made it impossible for the victim’s ghost to 
return and inhabit it again and so perhaps exact his own 

More complex, and much more interesting in their very 
complexity, axe the rehgious, pietistic or magical motives for 
cannibalism, which have gathered about themselves an extra- 
ordinarily detailed and lively body of legend, amounting in 
some cases almost to a mythology. 

Perhaps the most fundamental, as well as the most universal, 
of these religio-magical beliefs is that a man who eats part of 
another man’s body will immediately come to possess some of 
the qualities that belonged to him when he was still alive. This 
was the transference of the ‘soul-stuff’, or ‘life-principle’ (there 
are many other words and phrases to describe this essential 
ingredient that could, so primitive man thought, be transferred 
thus from the dead to the living). For a man to eat the heart of 
a man he had slain in battle meant that he acquired that 
amount of extra courage ; it was all the better if he had been 
fortunate enough to slay a doughty warrior. The child of an 
Australian tribesman might be encouraged to eat some part of 
his dead father’s flesh, so that when he grew up he would 
resemble his father in his courage, or skill as a tracker, or powers 
of leadership. 

There were many variants of this method of transferring the 
‘soul-stuff’ from the dead man to the living man. Sometimes 
the blood of the dead man would be swallowed, preferably 
while it was yet warm. Less primitive, or more highly 
developed, tribes contented themselves with licking the blood 
off the spear that had killed the enemy; or even, as an ultimate 
refinement, eating the first meal after the battle without first 
cleansing the hands of any blood that had been splashed on to 
them. One habit of the Maori — and one with a very obvious 


twofold explanation — was to eat the eyes of the men they had 
slain in battle. 

The acquisition of an enemy’s ‘life-principle’ was believed to 
strengthen greatly the procreative powers, and among many 
tribes a pre-requisite of marriage was a successful solo head- 
hunting expedition. Indeed, the all-important question of 
fertility, whether in the procreation of children or in the growth 
of crops, was closely associated with blood and this ‘life-prin- 
ciple’, and it was customary among many tribes to shower a 
triumphant warrior with grain when he returned from battle or 
a head-hunting expedition, and while he swallowed his victim’s 
blood, in order to ensure the fertility of both man and seed. 
On a less ‘spiritual’ basis, it was the practice in many regions to 
eat a certain part of a healthy man’s corpse in order to cure the 
corresponding part that was diseased in a living man. 

The Jumana and Kobena tribes of the Amazon Basin, like 
the Bihor tribes of India, reverently ate the corpses of their own 
more honoured dead kinsmen in the hope that the better quali- 
ties they had possessed in life might thus be transmitted to them. 
In Mexico, sacramental rites probably reached a higher degree 
of complexity than anywhere else. Human flesh was con- 
sidered the only food likely to be acceptable to the principal 
gods who had to be propitiated. Therefore human beings, 
carefully selected, were looked upon as representations of such 
gods as Quetzalcoatl and Tetzcatlipoca and, with most elabor- 
ate ceremonial rites, were eventually sacrificed to those gods 
whom they in fact represented, the onlookers being invited to 
share portions of the flesh in order thus to identify themselves 
with the gods to whom sacrifice had been made. 

Inevitably, when there is such elaboration of ceremonial, the 
texture of tabu becomes increasingly close-knit. Ceremonial 
regulations breed more and yet more regulations ; tabu prompts 
tabu. Among some tribes, after a successful foray to capture 
victims for tribal feasts or other purposes, the nearest relatives 
of the victorious hunters are prohibited from taking any part in 
the feasting; among other tribes, it is the killer and his family 
who have absolute priority. Sometimes only the actual killer 
is debarred from the feast; sometimes women and children only 
are debarred ; sometimes distinctions are drawn between inter- 
married clans and others. Curiously, there are cases where, if a 



man has been killed as an act of revenge, the family for whom 
the act of revenge has been carried out must absent themselves 
from the feast. Indeed, there is no limit to the tortuosities of 
the mental processes of the so-called ‘simple savage’. In the 
pages that follow, representative examples of these will be 
examined, compared and contrasted. 



In the heart of the South Pacific Ocean, between the 
Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, and extending roughly 
the same distance east and west of the International Date Line, 
there lie a number of groups of islands, some containing a mere 
handful, others consisting of several hundred, large and small. 
These islands are generally referred to as the South Sea Islands 
and, as such, have come to be associated with romance and 
voluptuous ease, Totus-eating’ and the simple life beneath a 
hot sun. There are other aspects than these to be considered. 

The ethnographer, primarily concerned with the physical 
characteristics and the distribution of the various races of man- 
kind, has divided the main body of these groups of islands 
according to the dominant physical characteristic of the races 
inhabiting them. The majority of the inhabitants of the islands 
lying to the east, such as the Marquesas, Samoa, Tonga Island, 
the Society Islands, Tahiti, and others less popularly known, 
have light brown skin and generally wavy hair. Ethnographers 
refer to the region they inhabit as Polynesia — ‘Many islands’. 

West of the International Date Line there is another group of 
islands, on the whole larger than those of Polynesia. They 
include the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, New Cale- 
donia, the Ellice Islands and many others less familiar. Be- 
cause the majority of the inhabitants of these islands are 
darker skinned, and have crinkly hair, the islands are known as 
Melanesia — ‘ Black islands ’ . 

Lying literally astride of the International Date Line is a 
group of islands numbering in all not far short of three hundred 
and known generically as Fiji. The ambiguous position of this 
group of islands, in the easternmost fringe of Melanesia and the 
westernmost fringe of Polynesia, has led anthropologists to refer 
to them sometimes as Melanesian, sometimes as Polynesian. 
The true ethnographer, however, makes no mistake : he 



recognises among the vast majority of the islanders the darker 
skin, the crinkled hair, of the true Melanesian; and as such he 
describes him. 

It is in Melanesia that cannibalism was longest in dying. 
The islands already mentioned, like the vastly larger island to 
the west of them. New Guinea, just to the north of Australia, 
are peopled by inhabitants who clung obstinately to their 
ancient tradition of devouring human flesh long after the tradi- 
tion had begun to fade, or had even been wholly stamped out, 
elsewhere. Indeed, it is likely that, away from the coastline, 
in the fastnesses of the mountains, cannibalism is still practised 
at the present day. For this reason, among others, it will be as 
well, perhaps, to examine the practice of cannibalism as re- 
ported and described by travellers who, within the last genera- 
tion or two, have been familiar with this region of the South 
Pacific either as traders or as missionaries or skippers of coasting 
craft, or as travellers with some training in anthropology. 

These are very numerous, and their reports can nearly always 
be substantiated or corroborated by comparison with those 
received from other sources which tally in regard to place and 
date. Among the countless reports that accumulated during 
the nineteenth century, the least suspect, of course, were those 
from missionaries in the field. Few missionaries anywhere in 
the world can have had to face greater horrors than those 
workers of the Methodist Missionary Society who established 
their missions in the Fiji Islands rather more than a hundred 
years ago. 

On November 22nd, 1836, a pioneer in this noble organisa- 
tion sent back to England — 


Men and Brethren (it began). To your sympathy this Appeal is 
made, and your help is implored on behalf of a most interesting 
but deeply depraved people, the inhabitants of the group of 
islands called feegee, little known to the civilised world except 
for the extreme danger to which vessels touching at them are 
exposed, from the murderous propensities of the islanders, and for 
the horrid cannibalism to which they are addicted, in which 
abomination they exceed the New Zealanders themselves. 

In FEEGEE, cannibalism is not an occasional, but a constant 


practice; not indulged in from a species of horrid revenge, but 
from an absolute preference for human flesh over all other food. 

It is on behalf of this cannibal race that we appeal to you. Let 
all the horrors of a cannibal feast be present to your minds while 
you read. We appeal to you on behalf of feegeean widows, 
strangled when their husbands die, and on behalf of the fee- 
GEEANS enslaved by vices too horrible for minute description. 
Pity CANNIBAL FEEGEE, and do so quickly. Come, then, ye 
Christians, and teach the poor, idolatrous, war-loving, man- 
devouring FEEGEEANS better things. . . . 

We spare you the details of a cannibal feast (the writer goes on 
to say, rather surprisingly in view of the customary reticence of 
these missionaries, when it comes to lurid detail) : the previous 
murders, the mode of cooking human beings, the assembled crowd 
of all ranks, all ages, both sexes. Chiefs and people, men, women 
and children, anticipating the feast with horrid glee. The actual 
feast. The attendants bringing into the circle baked human 
BEINGS — not one, nor two, nor ten, but twenty, thirty, forty, fifty at 
a single feast! We have heard on credible authority of 200 
human beings having been thus devoured on one of these 
occasions. TTie writer of this appeal has himself conversed with 
persons who have seen forty and fifty eaten at a single sitting — 
eaten without anything like disgust; eaten indeed with a high 

To gratify this unnatural propensity, they make war, assassinate, 
kidnap, and absolutely rob the graves of their inhabitants. I 
have myself known feegeeans to be guilty of the latter abomina- 
tion; and such is the indomitable appetite of the feegeeans for 
human flesh, that individuals have been known to act thus to- 
wards their own deceased children. . . . 

This complete lack of parental affection, of any love, however 
primitive, within the Fijian family, has been noted by an 
American amthropologist, A. P. Rice, who in a learned paper 
read before an American Anthropologists’ Association, had this 
to say: 

Within the Fiji Islands group. Cannibalism is one of the estab- 
lished institutions; it is one of the elements of the Fijians’ social 
structure, and is regarded as a refinement which should, and in- 
deed must, be cultivated to become a ‘gentleman’. Flesh-eating 
is a definite part of the Fijians’ religion, but they delight in human 
flesh for its own sake. For example, there is a record of a man 
living in Ruwai who actually killed his wife, with whom he had 
been living contentedly, and who even before their marriage had 
been of his own social standing; and ate her. He agreed that 
his act was the result of his extreme fondness for h uman flesh. 


The appeal for support in the missionary field in Fiji was 
successful, and the successive volumes of the Methodist Society’s 
Missionary Notices reveal the fervour and courage and indomit- 
able persistence in the face of appalling hazard that the Society’s 
missionaries displayed. Among them were such eminent 
Christians as Gross and Cargill and John Hunt, whose letters 
and reports fi-om their mission stations back to their London 
headquarters make vivid and impressive, though all too often 
very uncomfortable, reading. 

Some of the circumstances connected with the immolation of 
human victims (wrote the Rev. David Cargill in 1838) are most 
revolting and diabolical. The passions of the people during the 
performance of these horrible rites seem inflamed by a fiendish 
ferocity which is not exceeded by anything we have ever heard 
of in the annals of human depravity. « 

When about to offer a human sacrifice, the victim is selected 
from among the inhabitants of a distant territory, or is procmed by 
negotiation from a tribe which is not related to the persons about 
to sacrifice. The victim is kept for some time, and supplied with 
abundance of food, that he may become fat. 

When about to be immolated, he is made to sit on the ground 
with his feet imder his thighs and his hands placed before him. 
He is then bound so that he cannot move a limb or a joint. In 
this posture he is placed on stones heated for the occasion (and 
some of them are red-hot), and then covered with leaves and 
earth, to be roasted alive. When cooked, he is taken out of the 
oven and, his face and other parts being painted black, that he 
may resemble a living man ornamented for a feast or for war, he is 
carried to the temple of the gods and, being still retained in a 
sitting postmre, is offered as a propitiatory sacrifice. 

These ceremonies being concluded, the body is carried beyond 
the precincts of the consecrated groimd, cut into quarters, and 
distributed among the people; and they who were the cruel 
sacrificers of its life are also the beastly devomers of its flesh. . . . 

The unnatural propensity to eat human flesh exists among them 
in its most savage forms. The Feegeeans eat hiunan flesh, not 
merely from a principle of revenge, nor from necessity, but from 
choice. Captives and strangers are fi'equently killed and eaten. 
The natives of Thakaimdrove kidnap men, women and children 
to glut their appetite for human flesh; it is said that, as if they 
were human hyenas, they disinter dead bodies, even after they 
have been two or three days beneath the ground; and that, hav- 
ing washed them in the sea, they roast and devour them. The 
flesh of women is preferred to that of men, and when they have a 
plentiful supply the head is not eaten. In some cases the heart is 


preserved for months. The bones of those persons whose bodies 
have been eaten are never buried, but are thrown about as the 
bones of beasts, and the smaller ones are formed into needles. 
Recently a boat’s crew from the vessel Active was attacked by the 
natives in the expectation of obtaining their clothing and belong- 
ings. The four imhappy men were eooked and eaten, and their 
bones have now been formed into needles for making sails. 

One of the great names among the Methodist Missionary 
Society’s workers in Fiji is that of the Rev. John Hunt. He had 
established his mission base at Rewa, and reported back at 
some length to his head office in June of the year following 
David Cargill’s letter: 

Having given you some account of our comfortable — (in the 
conditions prevailing this is surely a quite extraordinary word to 
use!) — circujnstances, I shall now give some account of the diffi- 
culties which we meet with in the great work in which we are 
engaged. As we are come to Feegee to Christianise, and thus 
to civilise the people, I shall mention a few features in their 
character which appear to me calculated to retard the progress of 

The first which I shall mention is their cruelty. Cruelty is so 
natural to the Feegeeans that it has lost every part of its own 
hideous form, and appears more lovely than hateful to the minds 
of those who are truly without natural affection. I know but 
litde of their religious cruelty. It is very uncertain whether the 
numerous murders which are perpetrated at the building of 
canoes, and god-houses, are connected with their religion, or 
with their politics. Whatever may be their motives, their horrid 
acts of barbarity, and cannibalism, on the finishing of canoes and 
god-houses, are as shocking to humanity as they are unparalleled 
in history. Rome produced its monsters of iniquity, as Caligula, 
Domitian, Nero and Commodus; Grecian history frunishes 
examples, in the characters of Olympias and others, and English 
history in the acts of Henry and Mary. But cruelty in Greece, 
and Rome, and England bears its own name, and wears its own 
form; it is called a monster, and every man hates it, and dreads to 
be underneath the influence of those who are governed by its 

But in Feegee, some of those who are most esteemed, are 
esteemed partly on account of their obedience to the dictates of 
this monster; and not only Ghiefs but the common people delight 
in treacherously murdering, and feasting on the bodies of their 
neighbours, as well as on their enemies. We have heard the most 
shocking things of Namusi Matua, the Chief of Rewa, who has 
lately embraced Christianity. If the whole were told, I should 


think his history would be unparalleled in the history of human 

It is S2iid that when he built a canoe, he used to make a point of 
killing a man for every plank. Sometimes he would do his work 
by wholesale, and kill a whole settlement for a feast for his canoe 
builders. Being an adept at this kind of business, he was often 
employed by Tanoa, another Chieftain, in this inhuman work. 
So it would be impossible to imagine the number of victims that 
this man has killed; not in times of war but merely to satisfy the 
cravings of cannibal appetites. . . . 

John Hunt was not content, as his colleague in the field, 
David Cargill, was, in the letter quoted above, merely to de- 
scribe what happened ; he analysed to the best of his ability and 
evolved some sort of a theory. And having speculated, he 
ended his report from the mission field in Fiji on a more hopeful 

The case would be far different if they were led on to these acts of 
barbarity by religious motives or persuasions. But this, I believe, 
is not the reason for the sacrifices they make. All the answer I 
can get from my inquiries on this subject is : ‘ That is our custom ’. 
But this custom disappears where the Light of the Gospel shines, 
and where its influence is felt, even in a small degree. We know 
of no instance of cannibalism having happened in Rewa, since the 
Gospel came to Rewa. The Chief has had a new god-house 
built, and many new canoes, but we do not know that a single 
man has been killed, either from malice or for cannibal purposes. 

The Rev. John Hunt’s letter, ending on such a note of 
optimism, carried the date June 29th, 1839. Like many 
missionaries in many fields, he was too sanguine. Having 
effected a conversion, he persuaded himself that the conversion 
was permanent. It is possible, of course, that so far as this one 
individual chief was concerned, the conversion was total, and 
lasting. But it is very clear from a report written by David 
Cargill only four months later that the conversion was by no 
means general. 

The report forms part of a day-to-day record, or diary, that 
he was able to maintain for a considerable period, in spite of 
the appalling conditions in which he was obliged to five. He 
writes much as journalists had to write when reporting back the 
scenes they witnessed in war-tom Europe both during and after 
the war. And the story he tells is a horror story that may well 



have been matched only by the tales of atrocities of recent 

October 31st, 1833, Thursday. This morning we witnessed a 
shocking spectacle. Twenty (20) dead bodies of men, women and 
children were brought to Rewa as a present from Tanoa. They 
were distributed among the people to be cooked and eaten. They 
were dragged about in the water and on the beach. The children 
amused themselves by sporting with and mutilating the body of 
a little girl. A crowd of men and women maltreated the body of 
a grey-haired old man and that of a young woman. Human 
entraxk were floating down the river in front of the mission 
premises. Mutilated limbs, heads and trunks of the bodies of 
hmnan beings have been floating about, and scenes of disgust and 
horror have been presented to our view in every direction. How 
tme it is that the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations 
of cruelty. 

J^ovember ist, Friday. This morning a little after break of day I 
was surprised to hear the voices of several persons who were talk- 
ing very loudly near the front fence of the mission premises. On 
going out to ascertain the cause of the noise, I found a human 
head in our garden. This was the head of the old man whose 
body had been abused on the beach. The arm of the body had 
been broken by a bullet which passed through the bone near the 
shovilder, and the upper part of the skull had been knocked off 
with a club. The head had been thrown into our garden during 
the night, with the intention, no doubt, of annoying us and 
shocking our feelings. 

These poor victims of war were brought from Verata, and were 
killed by the Bau people. 260 human beings were killed and 
brought away by the victors to be roasted and eaten. Many 
women and children were taken alive to be kept for slaves. 
About 30 living children were hoisted up to the mastheads as flags 
of triumph. The motion of the canoes while sailing soon killed 
the helpless creatures and silenced their piercing cries. Other 
children were taken, alive, to Bau that the boys there might learn 
the art of Feegeean warfare by firing arrows at them and beating 
them with clubs. For days they have been tearing and devouring 
like wolves and hyenas. 

This entry in David Cargill’s diary was followed not long 
afterwards by another, briefer but no less horrible in its content: 

February 2nd, 1840. Immediately after our English Class at the 
Mission we were called to witness one of the most horrid scenes 
that our eyes have yet beheld in this land. Eleven dead bodies 
were dragged to the front of the old king’s house, but a few paces 
from our own door, from the adjoining island of Lauthala, having 


been slain together with the people of one whole village on the 
morning of the Sabbath by order of Tuiilaila, the young king. 
The reason assigned was their having killed one of the Bau people 
living in this land. 

The execution of the bloody massacre was committed to the 
people of a village situated nearer to the island of Lauthala than 
this. They fell upon them by break of day, while they were still 
asleep, and spared neither age nor sex. As far as we can learn, 
about 40 of them were slain, or very near that ntunber, and 
among the rest the principal chief of that isle. The bodies, being 
all brought into the presence of the two principal chiefs and then- 
people, were quickly given out one by one, to be roasted and 
eaten, and were severally dragged away on the ground like logs 
of wood by their respective owners. After a while the chiefs and 
people dispersed to their disgusting feast. The offensiveness of 
the bodies evidently diminished not their zest. Two bodies were 
dressed at a fire but a few paces from our fence. 

The cold-blooded cruelty of the Fijians heightens the horror 
implicit in their cannibal practices. It is one thing, one might 
say, in the heat of battle to slay a man and, having returned in 
triumph, to roast and share him with one’s companions in the 
successful foray. It is quite another — ^if it is permissible to 
look on this as a matter of degrees — to act as the Fijians seem 
consistently to have done. This is obviously the thought 
dominating the mind of another Methodist missionary, named 
Jaggar, reporting back to London in 1844, and by yet another 
of the courageous and unhappy workers in the field, the Rev. 
John Watsford, a couple of years later. Jaggar wrote: 

One of the servants of the king a few months ago ran away. She 
was soon, however, brought back to the king’s house. There, at 
the request of the queen, her arm was cut off below the elbow and 
cooked for the king, who ate it in her presence, and then ordered 
that her body be burnt in different parts. The girl, now a 
woman, is still living. 

Two men that were taken alive in the war at Viwa were re- 
moved from thence to Kamba, to be killed. The Bau chief told 
his brother — ^who had been converted by our Mission — the 
manner in which he intended them to be killed. His brother said 
to him: “That will be very cruel. If you will allow the men to 
live, I will give you a canoe.” The Bau chief answered: “Keep 
your canoe. I want to eat men.” His brother then left the 
village that he might not witness the horrible sight. 

The cruel deed was then perpetrated. The men doomed to 
death were made to dig a hole in the earth for the purpose of 


making a native oven, and were then required to cut firewood to 
roast their own bodies. They were then directed to go and wash, 
and afterwards to make a cup of a banana-leaf. This, from 
opening a vein in each man, was soon filled with blood. This 
blood was then drunk, in the presence of the sufferers, by the Kamba 

Seru, the Bau chief, then had their arms and legs cut off, cooked 
and eaten, some of the flesh being presented to them. He then 
ordered a fish-hook to be put into their tongues, which were then 
drawn out as far as possible before being cut off". These were 
roasted and eaten, to the taimts of “ We are eating your tongues ! ” 
As life in the victims was still not extinct, an incision was made in 
the side of each man, and his bowels taken out. This soon ter- 
minated their sufferings in this world. 

The father of the present king was one of the greatest cannibals 
ever known. He used to say, when vegetables were set before him ; 
“What is there to eat with these?” If they answered “Pig”, he 
would then say; “No, that will not do.” Fish, too, he would 
refuse, asking: “Have you not got an ikalevuJ” This is the 
Feegeeans’ word for ‘great fish’, but when used it always means a 
dead human body. 

A variant on this sinister euphemism is reported, not by a 
missionary, this time, but by a well-known and intrepid tra- 
veller, Alfred St Johnston, who seems to have had a predilection 
for making his temporary home among the fiercest primitive 
tribes he could locate. Obviously he survived his experiences, 
for at the end of the nineteenth century he published his 
memoirs under the pleasantly alliterative title. Camping Among 
Cannibals. In this book he wrote : “The expression ‘long pig’ 
is not a phrase invented by Europeans but is one frequently 
used by the Fijians, who looked upon a corpse as ordinary 
butcher’s meat. They call a human body puaka balava — ‘long 
pig’ — in contradistinction to puaka dina — ‘real pig’.” 

The missionary, Jaggar, completed his grim report of 
cannibalistic practices among the Bau tribes of his island ; 

The Bau Chief used to feel his victims. If they were fat, he would 
say, “Your fat is good. I shall eat you.” If they were lean, he 
would send them away to be fattened. He preferred human flesh 
to all else, especially in the morning, and if his sons did not eat 
the flesh with him he would beat them. 

Another chief ran away in battle but was captured in a tree, 
from which he was brought into the presence of Chief Tanoa, 
who was actually related to him. His hands were tied and he 


was made to sit before Tanoa, who kissed him while, with his own 
hands, he cut off one of his arms. Having drunk some of the 
blood that had been spilled, he then threw the arm upon the fire 
to roast, and afterwards ate it in his presence. 

The captured chief said to him : “ Do not do this to me. Like 
you, I am a chief.” Tanoa then cut off the other arm, and also 
both his legs; also as much of his tongue as he could. Then he 
divided up the trunk, leaving the parts to dry in the sun. 

Two years later, the Rev. John Watsford wrote from Ono to 
announce that the war between Bau and Rewa had at last come 
to an end. He does not say what it was that brought hostilities 
to a close, and it is unlikely that it was as the result of any 
influence brought to bear upon the combatants by the Mission 
workers, for all their courage and perseverance. For there is 
continuous evidence throughout these reports that not only 
fighting but cannibal practices took place on the very threshold 
of the Mission. Thankfully reporting the cessation of these 
hostilities, Watsford wrote on November 6th, 1 846 : 

We cannot teU you how many have been slain. Hundreds of 
wretched human beings have been sent to their account, with all 
their sins upon their heads. Dead bodies were thrown upon the 
beach at Vewa, having drifted from Bau, where they were thrown 
into the sea, there being too many at Bau to be eaten. Bau literally 
stank for many days, human flesh having been cooked in every 
hut and the entrails having been thrown outside as food for pigs, 
or left to putrefy in the sun. 

The Somosomo jjeople were fed with human flesh during their 
stay at Bau, they being on a visit at the time. Some of the chiefs 
of other tribes, when bringing their food, carried a cooked human 
being on one shoulder and a pig on the other; but they always 
preferred the ‘long pig’, as they call a man, when baked. One 
woman who had been clubbed was left upon the beach in front 
of our house at Vewa. The poor creature’s head was smashed to 
pieces and the body quite naked. Whether it was done by the 
heathen to insult us, or not, we do not know. 

One Christian man was clubbed at Rewa, and part of his body 
was eaten by the Vewa heathen and his bones then thrown near 
our door. My lad gathered them up and buried them, and after- 
wards learned that they were the bones of one of his friends. 
After Rewa was destroyed, heaps of dead bodies lay in aU direc- 
tions; their bones still lie bleaching in the sim. 

We do not, and we cannot, tell you all that we know of Feegeean 
cruelty and crime. Every fresh act seems to rise above the last. 
A chief at Rakeraki had a box in which he kept human flesh. 
Legs and arms were salted for him and thus preserved in this box. 


If he saw anyone, even if of his friends, who was fatter th2in the 
rest, he had him — or her — killed at once, and part roasted and 
part preserved. His people declare that he eats human flesh 
every day. 

At Bau, the people preserve human flesh and chew it as some 
chew tobacco. They carry it about with them, and use it in the 
same way as tobacco. I heard of an instance of cruelty the other 
day that surpasses everything I have before heard of the kind. A 
canoe was wrecked near Natawar, and many of the occupants 
succeeded in swimming to shore. They were taken by the Nata- 
war people and ovens were at once prepared in which to roast 
them. The poor wretches were bound ready for the ovens and 
their enemies were waiting anxiously to devour them. They did 
not club them, lest any of their blood should be lost. Some, 
however, could not wait until the ovens were sufficiendy heated, 
but pulled the ears off the wretched creatures and ate them raw. 

When the ovens were ready, they cut their victims up very 
carefully, placing dishes under every part to catch the blood. If 
a drop feU, they licked it up off the ground with the greatest 
greediness. While the poor wretches were being cut in pieces, 
they pleaded hard for life; but all was of no avail: all were 

It is curious how a small detail, in this case a comparison 
between a familiar habit such as chewing tobacco and the 
hideous practice of tearing off a victim’s ears and chewing 
them, can prove more impressive, somehow, than an elaborate 
account of massacre followed by wholesale consumption of 
human flesh. The detail typifies, crystallises, an attitude. A 
Professor of Botany at Trinity College, Dublin, Dr W. H. 
Harvey, who had been doing research in the neighbouring 
Tonga, or Friendly Isles, confirmed this practice: “Sometimes 
the Fijians cook a man whole (which they call Tong pig’), then 
put him in a sitting posture, with a fan in his hand and orna- 
mented as if alive; and thus they carry him in state, as a grand 
head-dish for the feast. The tribesmen chew little bits of raw 
human flesh as sailors chew tobacco, and then put them in their 
children’s mouths.” 

Alfred St Johnston, incidentally, confirms this practice of 
ornamenting a victim before consigning him to the oven, and 
stresses, too, this aspect of scorn which the primitive will show 
on these occasions : “If a man was to be cooked whole, they 
would paint and decorate his face as though he were alive, and 
one of the chief persons of the place would stand by the body. 


which was placed in a sitting position, and talk in a mocking 
strain to it for some time, when it would be handed over to the 
cooks, who prepared it and placed it in the oven.” 

Being a mere traveller, as opposed to being a missionary, St 
Johnston had an entirely different attitude towards what he 
saw. He was writing many years later than the various 
Methodist missionaries already quoted, and he was writing 
with wonder, rather than with the deep spiritual horror that 
animated Cargill, Jaggar, Hunt and Watsford and their 
brethren in the mission fields of Fiji. He was observant, quick 
to accumulate cross-references from the skippers of the trading- 
vessels whom he encountered, and to collate the varied material 
that thus came his way. He evolved theories, some of which are 
substantiated by later anthropologists working in the same area. 

The Fijians (he wrote in 1883) loved human flesh for its own sake, 
and did not merely eat a slain enemy out of revenge. Probably 
the absence of any animal they could eat gave rise to the 
custom. . . . 

This theory is supported by the American anthropologist, 
A. P. Rice, who wrote : “In Fiji there are no indigenous animals 
(the pig was introduced only in the eighteenth century) with 
the exception of the rat. Thus cannibalism is more under- 
standable — even ‘ excusable ’ — here.” 

The crew of every boat that was wrecked upon these shores (St 
Johnston continued) was killed and eaten in some parts. Often 
a man would order to be clubbed some man or woman that he 
considered would be good for cooking, his plea being that his 
“black tooth was aching” and only human flesh could cure it. 
Such was the absolute right of a man over his wife that he could 
kill and eat her, if he wished ; which has been not rarely done. 

Such inordinate gluttons were some of these chiefs that they 
would reserve the whole bakolo, as a human body to be eaten was 
called, for their own eating, having the flesh slightly cooked time 
after time to keep it from going putrid. As a rule a Fijian will 
touch nothing that has become tainted, but sooner than lose any 
part of a human roast, they would eat it when the flesh would 
hardly hang together. 

So great was their craving for this strange flesh that when a 
man had been killed in one of their many bruits and quarrels, and 
his relations had buried his body, the Fijians frequently enacted 
the part of ghouls and, digging the body up from the grave, 
cooked it and feasted thereon. So customary was this that the 



relations of a buried man who had not died from natural causes 
watched his grave imtil the body had probably become too 
loathsome for even a Fijian’s appetite. 

The flesh was either baked whole in the ovens, or cut up and 
stewed in the large earthenware pots they use for cooking. Cer- 
tain herbs were nearly always cooked with the flesh, either to 
prevent indigestion or as a sort of savoury stuffing — I know not 
which. The cooks who prepared it and placed it in the oven 
fiUed the inside of the body with hot stones so that it would be well 
cooked all through. 

After a battle, the victors would cook and eat many of the slain 
at once, but generally some of the bodies were borne home to the 
victors’ village, where they were dragged by ropes tied roimd 
their necks through the open place to the temple. There they 
were offered to the gods, and afterwards cooked and divided 
among the men, the prieste always coming in for a large share. 
By the side of the temples great heaps of human bones lay whiten- 
ing in the sun — a sign of how many bodies had been thus offered 
to the gods. Women, however, were not allowed to take part in 
the awful banquet, yet women’s bodies were considered better for 
cooking than men, and the thighs and arms were looked upon as 
the favourite portions. So delicious was human flesh held to be, 
that the highest praise that could be given to other food was to 
say: “It is as good as 

Some of the most famous of the great cannibals have eaten an 
enormous number of human beings, many of them in their time 
having consumed hundreds of bodies. . . . 

A. P. Rice confirms this with authority. He quotes the case 
of a Fijian chieftain who boasted of having in his lengthy life- 
time devoured the tastier and more desirable portions of the 
bodies of over nine hundred human beings. This particular 
chieftain was said, by those who knew him well, to be by no 
means a naturally bloodthirsty man — and the epithet here 
takes on a somewhat grisly connotation. In fact, he was con- 
sidered, generally speaking, a particularly friendly individual 
and noted for his hospitality to strangers visiting his island. 
Possibly the ‘hospitality’ was on the lines of the hospitality 
practised by the legendary Procrustes in Attica. He, it will be 
recalled, offered shelter to travellers passing his way. But he 
had the inhospitable habit of cutting off the legs of any of his 
guests who were too long for his beds, or alternatively stretching 
them if they were not long enough to fill them. Theseus, 
happily, put an end to these malpractices so reprehensible in a 


Rice also records the case of Chichia, a Fijian chieftain who 
captured some men from Bau ; 

On the following day he called a great war dance among his 
tribesmen to celebrate the victory and prepare for the feast to 
follow it. The dancers appeared with their faces and bodies 
hideously painted, and carrying clubs and spears. Their dance, 
which lasted for many hours, consisted of a series of poses in war- 
like, threatening and boastful attitudes. After the dancing, 
drinks were served, and the feast was announced. 

And such a feast! It consisted of 200 human bodies, 200 hogs, 
and 200 baskets of yams. The preparation of the human bodies 
and of the hogs was identical, and every member of the tribe had 
of course to partake of the two main dishes — he was not allowed 
to select one or the other. This was to ensure that the men did 
not glut themselves on the human bodies to such an extent that 
there was insufficient human flesh and others would therefore 
have to content themselves with mere hog flesh. 

Some of the men did, in fact, attempt to concentrate their 
attention on the human flesh alone, but they were discovered and 
sternly forced to practise a less obvious form of greed. In fact, 
there was no evidence of a shortage of either commodity, but by the 
time the feast came to an end there was little remaining but bone. 

The traveller, Alfred St Johnston, continued his observations 
of cannibal practices among the Fiji Islanders ; 

No important business could be commenced without the slaying 
of one or two human beings as a fitting inauguration. Was a 
canoe to be built, then a man must be slain for the laying of its 
keel; if the man for whom the canoe was being built was a very 
great chief, then a fresh man was killed for every new timber that was 
added. More men were used at its launching — as rollers to aid its 
passage to the sea. Others again were slain to wash its deck in 
blood and to furnish the feast of human flesh considered so desir- 
able on such occasions. After the canoe was afloat still more 
victims were required at the first taking down of the mast. 

At Bau there used to be a regular display of slaughter, in a sort 
of arena, round which were rtused stone seats for the onlookers. 
In this space was a large ‘ braining-stone ’, which was used thus; 
two strong natives seized the victim, each taking hold of an arm 
and leg, and, lifting him from the ground, they ran with him head 
foremost — at their utmost speed against the stones — dashing out 
his brains; which was fine sport for the spectators. 

Alfred St Johnston, it may have been noticed, seems to have 
taken an unhealthy pleasure in the recording of detail of this 
kind. Most references to cannibalism, made by civilised 


persons, are touched with more than a hint of horror. You do 
not need to have the missionary’s constitutional and ingrained 
loathing of all that is non-Christian in practice, to feel a deep 
sense of horror when confronted by such phenomena ; the very 
idea of devouring the flesh and blood of one’s fellow-men is so 
ahen to one’s whole conception of what is right and what is 
wrong that one shrinks from even a hint of the subject. There 
is horror beneath Coleridge’s hnes, when he makes his Ancient 
Mariner say, “I bit my arm, I sucked the blood. And cried: 
‘A sail! A sail!’ ” And he, be it noted, is drinking his oum 

Yet St Johnston concludes his chapter on the subject of 
cannibalism in Fiji with a paragraph that, as it were, smites one 
between the eyes : 

This subject of cannibalism has a terrible sort of fascination for 
me. Although the ghastly tales, told to me by a skipper who 
sailed these waters and saw these things when they took place, 
made me shudder, I have enjoyed them thoroughly. I have no wish 
to appear singular when I say that I should have gloried in the 
rush and struggle of old Fijian times — with my hand against 
everybody, and everybody against me; and the fierce madness of 
unchecked passion and rage with which they went to battle, and 
the clubbing of my foes. And — I am sure I should have enjoyed the 
eating of them afterwards. 

The use of the word ‘singular’ in such a context strikes one 
as being a superlative example of under-statement ! 

Another traveller among the Fijian Islands in the nineteenth 
century, and rather before St Johnston’s time, was Felix 
Maynard. He was a French surgeon who attached himself to a 
small whaHng fleet operating in the South Pacific and later pro- 
duced a book on the subject, written, curiously enough, in 
collaboration with Alexandre Dumas. He had the powers of 
observation and analysis that one would associate with a 
medical man, but was very definitely not as cold-blooded in his 
descriptive writing as doctors sometimes are; and there is more 
compassion in a single sentence of his than in the whole of St 
Johnston’s book. 

Captain Morell (he writes), the American skipper of whom I have 
alrpdy spoken, came near to being the victim of an ambush in the 
Fiji Islands. He lost fourteen of his companions. After regain- 
ing his ship, he said, he saw the savages cutting up the members 


of his poor sailors while they were still alive, and more than one 
of them saw his own arm or leg roasted and devoured before his 

In Naclear Bay, in the Fijis, a Captain Dillon came near to 
losing his life. While searching for sandal-wood trees with 
eighteen or twenty of his men, he found himself separated from 
the majority of his party and surrounded by a large number of 
the natives. It was impossible to regain the sea, so he and four 
others took refuge on a steep rock. “We were,” said Dillon 
later, “five refugees on a rock, and the ground below was covered 
with several thousand savages. They lit fires at the foot of the 
rock and heated hearths upon which to roast the limbs of my un- 
fortunate companions. The corpses of these,” he continued, “as 
well as those of two chiefs of a neighbouring island, were brought 
before the fires in the following manner : two natives from Naclear 
constructed a kind of stretcher with branches of trees, which they 
placed upon their shoulders. The corpses of their victims were 
put crosswise upon this structure, so that the head hung down on 
one side and the legs on the other. Thus they were carried in 
triumph to the fires, where they were placed on the grass in a 
sitting position. 

“The savages sang and danced around them with demonstra- 
tions of the most ferocious joy. They fired several bullets at the 
inanimate bodies, using for this posthumous execution the guns 
which had fallen into their hands. When this ceremony was 
finished, the priests commenced to cut up the corpses before our 
eyes, and the fragments were placed upon the hearths. Mean- 
while we ourselves were surrounded upon every side save that 
where a thicket of mangroves bordered the river.” 

Two of Dillon’s companions (Maynard continues), one named 
Savage and the other a Chinese, abandoned their captain, 
foolishly believing the promises of the barbarians that they would 
come to no harm. “Savage,” Dillon said, “was soon in their 
midst. They surrounded him, appearing to congratulate him. 
Suddenly, however, they uttered a great cry, seizing Savage at the 
same time by the legs. Six men held him suspended head down- 
wards and plunged him into a hole full of water, where he was 
speedily suffocated. Meanwhile, a native approached the 
Chinese from behind, and dashed out his brains with a blow of 
his club. Thereupon the two unfortunate fellows were cut up 
and placed on the hearth with their companions.” 

Fortunately for DiUon, Maynard records, a boat’s crew from 
another vessel that heard the outcry made a determined assault 
from the sea and succeeded in rescuing the captain and his two 
remaining companions in the nick of time. 

Missionaries’ tales; travellers’ tales: the reports of men who 


were there, who, from their own volition or through force of 
circumstances, found themselves often uncomfortably, alarm- 
ingly, close to a way of life that was frightening in the extreme. 
They were not, however, anthropologists — though they may 
have unconsciously picked up more than a smattering of the 
knowledge that is ordinarily the perquisite of the researcher in 
anthropology. Except as a chance remark, thrown in as a 
parenthesis, they offer no interpretation or explanation of what 
they see. 

A. P. Rice, the American anthropologist, in his learned paper 
bracketed together all the South Sea Islands, whether to the 
east or to the west of the International Date Line, ignoring the 
differences of pigment in the skin and the quality of the hair 
which the ethnographer uses to distinguish between Polynesians 
and Melanesians. For him, all these islanders were to be found 
inhabiting a scattering of islands so numerous as to deserve the 
one name, Polynesia. He writes, thus, in one long paper of the 
Marquesans, the Society Islanders, the Hawaiians and Tahi- 
tians, the Tongans, the Papuans, the New Caledonians and 
New Hebrideans, the Samoans, and the Maori of New Zealand. 
And also, as we have already seen, of the Fijians. 

Cannibalism (he writes) is a custom which has not been confined 
exclusively to any particular part of the world. The Greek 
classics refer to it; the Ancient Irish ate their dead; the Saxons 
had a word in their language that stood for all that is horrible (he 
does not give us that word, however) ; in Mexico and Peru, before 
the Spanish Conquest, the lust for human flesh was so great that 
wars were declared in order that victims for these feasts might be 

Writing of cannibalism in Fiji — the group of islanders who, 
he says, may well have been the progenitors of this cult of 
cannibalism, and from whom the practice spread by degrees 
into the adjacent islands east and west of the Fiji group — he is 
quick to note the religious aspect. Though, as he has already 
remarked, the Fijians may well have been cannibals because 
until comparatively recent times there was no indigenous 
animal on their islands, save the rat, and in this sense their 
cannibalism may be ‘excusable’, he goes on to show that the 
Fijians genuinely believed that their tribal gods demanded human 
flesh by way of sacrifice. “The heads of the victims,” he 


emphasises, “are turned over to the tribal priests in order that 
the priests may use them in religious ceremonies.” 

Subsequently, he goes into this aspect of the matter more fully : 

When bodies of enemies were procured for the oven, the event was 
always publicised by the peculiar beating of the tribal drums. 
Once heard, it is said by those who have been within earshot, it is 
a sound and a rhythm that can never be mistaken — and never be 
forgotten. The bodies taken in warfare or forays to adjacent 
islands were brought back to the beach in canoes. When the 
canoes had been beached, the bodies were thrown into the sea for 
cleansing and purification. . . . 

(This belief in the cleansing and purifying qualities of sea water 
was widely held, and we shall see other and more elaborate 
rituals in this connection among other cannibahstic tribes.) 

Lest the corpses should drift away on the tides and be lost (Rice 
continues), they were fastened by the left wrist to vine stems. In 
due course they are brought ashore, during which time the men 
of the tribe execute an elaborate and protracted war-dance on the 
beach, and at the same time the women of the tribe participate 
in a very different and highly suggestive variant of the dance. 
The bodies are then dragged, face downwards, up the beach to the 
village, where they are deposited at the feet of the chief. He 
immediately invites the tribal priests to offer the bodies to their 
Grod of War. 

In the larger islands of the group, where the villages are often 
some distance from the beach, the bodies are not dragged along 
the ground, since over a long journey too much of their valuable 
flesh would thus be scraped away; instead, they are lashed to 
strong poles and carried like ghastly litters on men’s shoulders. 
The picture inevitably evokes images of the carrying on poles of 
‘ stuck pig’ and other semi- wild prey of the hunter on safari. 

After the religious ceremony has ended, the bodies are brought 
back to the beach again, still face downwards, there to be carved 
up by skilled men with knives of split bamboo — which, carefully 
fashioned, can be given a razor-like edge and are perfectly effec- 
tive for this gross surgery. The chief carver first cuts off the four 
limbs, joint by joint. These are taken by his assistants, folded in- 
dividually in plantain leaves and placed carefully in the ovens — 
suitably sized holes in the ground, floored and lined with stones. 

Bodies (Rice continues, and here he seems to challenge some 
of the missionaries’ and travellers’ reports already quoted) 
were in no case eaten raw. 

The heart, the thighs and the arms above the elbows were con- 
sidered by epicures to be the most palatable portions. Vakatotoga 


is a name given to a terrible form of torture to which many vic- 
tims were subjected. Their arms and legs were cut off while 
they were still alive — though it may be hoped that the majority 
of them died fairly soon from loss of blood. These limbs were 
then baked over the fires and eaten in the victims’ presence. 
Children and adults were habitually kidnapped for a special 
gesture to a distinguished individual, and no distinction was made 
in regard either to sex or to age. In Valebpsarus the trunk of the 
body was always eaten first, for the very practical reason that this 
was the portion of a corpse that would not ‘ keep ’ in a tropical 
climate. . . . 

In this connection it is interesting to note that, as other 
anthropologists have reported, certain cannibal tribes in other 
parts of the world used to store the flesh and bones of their 
human victims in north-facing parts of their huts, or, if they 
were fortunate enough to live near the sea or a lake, in pits 
carefully dug to a point below water level. 

When (Rice concludes) for one reason or another there was a sur- 
plus of corpses and the supply of human flesh thus exceeded cur- 
rent demand, the torsos were thrown away and only the limbs 
devoured. There is a record of a particularly lavish feast where 
there was an unprecedented surfeit of corpses and everyone could 
afford to ignore the torsos and take his pick of the more succulent 
portions of the thighs and upper arms. 

This anthropologist repeats over and over again his con- 
tention that the origin at least of cannibalism in Polynesia — 
and particularly among the Fiji Islanders — was what the 
thoughtless would call an ‘unnatural’ appetite for flesh, but 
what he, more reasonably, calls “a most natural appetite for 
good red meat. Natur^ man,” he emphasises, “is carni- 
vorous. Meat is his natural food. The cannibals whom we in 
our childhood used to regard with such horror when tales about 
them were read to us, should in fact — many races of them at 
least — have been represented to us as unfortunate dwellers in 
an unhappily situated, or at any rate inadequately stocked, 
locality ; and not as mere savages who wilfully did their utmost 
to disobey the laws of the so-called civilised nations.” 

That is the objective utterance of the dispassionate observer; 
and as such, if less colourful and spectacular than, say, the 
astonishing last paragraph of Alfred St Johnston, is a fairer 
assessment of a situation which, as he emphasises, is happily 
today a matter of past history. 



There is a very great deal more to be said about the 
variations in practice among the other Polynesian and 
Melanesian tribes, but perhaps it will be found more palatable 
if, before examining these, we turn to a very different part of 
the world; to a race of people among whom the physical detail 
of cannibalism is less prominent and the mythological or 
religio-magical element dominates the picture. 

It has been seen that, so far as the Fijians at any rate are 
concerned, the element of religion enters only very per- 
functorily into their cannibalism. It is rather as though, with 
a deep-rooted and hardly admitted, or even perhaps recognised, 
awareness that the eating of human flesh was in some way 
wrong, they sought to protect themselves from the potential 
consequences of wrong-doing by appeasing their tribal gods. 
But the gesture of appeasement, as we have seen, was shght; 
the gods were identified with the tribal chiefs, to whom the best 
portions of the flesh were automatically rendered — which 
suggests the obvious underlying emotion of fear. And indeed, 
it is difficult if not impossible to separate fear from rehgio- 
superstition; and this may be seen even today, and without the 
necessity for traveUing very far from home. 

Obviously, however, among the Fijians the main thing was 
the consumption of the flesh; the gesture to the tribal god, by 
way of the tribal priest, was perfunctory; if the victim became 
available on the field of battle, then was it, they clearly asked 
themselves, worth while waiting till their return home before 
indulging in a victors’ feast? And, like Pilate in another con- 
text, they stayed not for an answer. 

In most, if not all, primitive tribal customs there is a close link 
between sacrifice and cannibalism, even if in some cases (as in 
the ones already considered) the link is exiguous in the extreme. 
Sacrifice, of course, was a gesture: the supreme gesture, if you 



will. There is no part of the world, however remote, in which 
sacrifice in one form or another has not played an essential part 
in the way of life of the people. The Old Testament is full of 
references to it; history, legend, myth and story, from remotest 
recorded times until the day before yesterday, is alive with it. 
Sir James Frazer’s monumental anthropological work, The 
Golden Bough, the twelve volumes of which occupied him for a 
quarter of a century and followed half a lifetime of research, is 
an exhaustive (and completely fascinating) survey of the whole 
field of the beliefs of mankind as revealed in their customs and 
practices. It began with an examination of the rules of the 
priesthood and ‘sacred kingship’ of the Grove of Nemi, the 
first rule of which was that the new candidate for the priesthood 
must first slay the existing priest; after which he himself would 
in due course be slain by his successor. And his worldwide 
studies revealed that sacrifice, and as often as not human sacri- 
fice, was an integral part of the priestly rites, and that immola- 
tion was very extensively associated with the consuming of 
human flesh. 

Frazer, in common with other anthropologists, states posi- 
tively that the practice of cannibalism, as such, is almost cer- 
tainly less of an estabUshed institution than human sacrifice, 
or immolation. Nevertheless, except in the case of the Fijians, 
and certain other Melanesian tribes to whom we shall revert in 
due course, among whom the sheer lust for human flesh seems 
to have predominated over all other considerations, the basic 
ritualistic motive is virtually identical. Both in the sacrificing 
of human beings, and in the partaking of portions of their flesh 
before or after the sacrifice, there is always the underlying 
principle of the transfer of ‘soul-substance’. 

The ancient people of Mexico probably afford as interesting 
an example of this aspect of sacrifice-cum-cannibalistic practice 
as any whose traditions and customs have been examined by 
anthropologists. Mexico, and the Mexicans, have excited 
interest and speculation for many years past, and it is interesting 
to note the number of books that have been published in com- 
paratively recent times deaUng with Mexico Today and 

It is the Mexico of Yesterday that we are concerned with at 
this moment: the Mexico which came under the sway of that 


Strange people, the Maya, who flooded into its fertile valleys by 
way of Oaxaca, and who in their turn were absorbed by the 
Toltecs. The Toltec civilisation probably attained its peak in 
the eleventh century a.d.- — ^at about the same time as William 
the Conqueror brought a Norman civilising influence across the 
Channel to our own shores. 

But the Toltecs, too, had to give way to a further wave of 
invaders: the Aztecs. It was the Aztecs who dominated 
Southern Mexico longest, under such leaders as Montezuma, 
who was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. We 
know more about the way of life established and maintained 
by these Aztecs than about that in any previous period — 
though only enough is known about them to whet our curiosity 
for more. The Spanish Conquistadors came, and saw, and 
mercilessly overthrew the Aztec regime in the early part of the 
sixteenth century, when they were at the height of their power 
and achievement. The picture has been painted in brilhant 
new colours by Jean Descola in his book, The Conquistadors. 

Human sacrifice was an essential element in the Aztec culture 
and to a large extent explains the almost continuous wars that 
the Aztecs waged with neighbouring peoples between the 
Caribbean and the Pacific : a regular and unbroken supply of 
victims was essential to the priests if the sun was to be kept in 
constant and beneficent motion across the Aztec sky, bringing 
fertihty to crops and men ahke. 

It is curious to trace the development of their ‘religion’. At 
first the Aztecs, who were originally a nomadic tribe known as 
the Nahua, were impressed, not only by the settled way of life 
of the Maya into whose territory they had irrupted, and by 
their skill as agriculturists, but by the form of worship practised 
by the Maya and the Toltecs. In course of time, however, 
though they largely adopted, and improved upon, the agri- 
cultural methods of the people they were superseding, they 
preferred to maintain their own form of worship, and to bend 
to it the priestly rites and rituals they had at first admired. 

With them, the fertihty of the land, and the prosperity of the 
people who hved on it and hved only because of it, was wholly 
identified with the life and the viriHty of their king, or chieftain. 
For the Aztecs, their Warrior-god, Uitzilopochth, was some- 
thing more than a warrior or a god: he came to be virtually 


identified with the sun itself — a Sun-god as well as a Warrior- 
god, whose virility must be maintained at its maximum by a 
perpetual supply of human victims’ hearts. 

In addition to the Warrior-god, or Sun-god, there were 
other deities, both male and female, in the Aztec hierarchy. 
Extremely important among these, and for obvious reasons, was 
Teteoinnan, the Earth-Mother. At the time of the harvest 
festival a female victim was flayed and her skin brought cere- 
monially to the temple, either of Teteoinnan or of Centeotl, the 
Goddess of Maize. The skin was worn by the officiating 
priest, who for the ritual assumed the identity of the goddess 
herself. This is but one of innumerable examples, in many 
parts of the world, in which the donning of a human skin 
enables a human being to identify himself with the god or 
goddess whom he (or she) serves : it is the elemental concept of 
the transfer of soul-stuff by close contact with flesh and blood. 

The Aztec religious ceremonial became progressively more 
and more elaborate — as is the case with all religions ancient and 
modem. The Aztec year was divided into eighteen periods of 
twenty days each, and certain of these periods, coinciding as 
they did with the natural seasons of the year, were marked by 
special rituals and ceremonies. 

In Febmary, for example, young children were immolated 
to the gods of rain and water in order that the new year’s crops 
might not wither from drought. At another festival, the blood 
of children who had been thus sacrificed was collected by the 
priest and kneaded into an image of the god, Uitzilopochtli, 
made of maize dough. The heart of the image was ceremoni- 
ally cut out by the priest and given to the reigning Aztec king 
to consume, while the remainder of the image was distributed 
among the notables, a small portion to each. 

Totec, the Moon-god, had to be propitiated in the period 
immediately preceding the first sowing of seed, and this entailed 
human sacrifice. This time it was not children who were 
involved, but a prisoner of war — and the more courageous he 
had proved himself in battle the better the prospects for the new 
crop. The ritual here was to fasten the prisoner to a frame of 
timber, with arms and legs spreadeagled. Arrows were then 
shot into him, so that he bled profusely, and his blood 
sacramentzilly fertifised the soil. 


There were interesting and elaborate variants on this funda- 
mental rehgio-magical practice. Sometimes, when the victim 
had bled profusely but was yet alive, he was removed from his 
wooden framework and sacrificed in the customary fashion, his 
heart being cut from his hving breast by a priest using an 
obsidian knife. His skin would then be flayed from his body, 
and donned by the priest representing the Earth-Mother, 
symboHsing the donning of a new mantle — that of a new and 
full-eared maize crop. In order to emphasize the symbolism, 
the priests assumed disguises resembhng maize ears and maize 
stalks, and indulged in an elaborate ritual dance before the 
altars and within sight of the fields which had been recently 
sown. Meanwhile, the flesh of the victim, or of the victims 
where more than one had been sacrificed to the gods and 
goddesses, was distributed among the warriors who had been 
responsible for procuring the prisoners of war for the purpose 
of the ceremony. 

Among the Aztecs, the actual mechanics of sacrifice were 
elaborated constantly, and there was hardly an aspect of the 
ceremony which did not possess some deep and fundamental 

The victim was first stripped of any ornaments he might be 
wearing. He was then laid over a curved sacrificial altar, or 
large stone, and his head, his legs and his arms would be taken 
by five priests, one to each, and held rigid while the High 
Priest, the sacrificial agent, who might often be identified with 
the god or goddess he himself served, cut open the victim’s 
breast with his knife of obsidian — a form of volcanic rock which 
was dark hke bottle-glass and could be sharpened to a razor 

The priest then tore out the victim’s heart, often still 
palpitating, and held it up to the sun that each might give 
strength to the other. It was then put into a ceremonial basin 
which had been placed in such a position as to collect the blood 
that flowed from the wound. Then, mixed with the smoke of 
incense, the smell of the blood was w^afted upwards to the god in 
whose honour the ceremony had just been enacted. 

Bereft of its heart, and much of its blood, the body was of no 
further service to the High Priest. It was therefore thrown 
down the great flight of stone steps that characterised the 


Aztec temples, from the altar at the summit to the people wait- 
ing in the courtyard below. There it was seized by other 
priests and given to the warriors responsible for the original 
capture of the victim. The skin was carefuUy removed, and 
donned by the chief of the warriors concerned, who beheved 
that by wearing it he would gain something of the dead man’s 
fertihty and soul-stuff. The body itself was then cut up and 
eaten by the warriors and their closest associates ; but the feast 
at which this body was devoured was a solemn, a ceremonial 
occasion, very different from the cannibalistic orgies of the less 
‘civihsed’ Fijians already described. 

The great Aztec feast, known as Toxcatl, was held on April 
23rd, when the sun was at its zenith. It was regarded as the 
greatest festival of the year, and not unnaturally the elaboration 
of the ceremony here reached its zenith too. It was, in fact, 
virtually a sacrificing of the god himself to the god himself — a 
perversion of an originally straightforward practice which is 
to be found duplicated in many other parts of the world. 

The ceremony may be said to have commenced a whole year 
before its climax, when a carefully selected victim, usually a 
prisoner captured in battle, was set apart from all others and 
prepared — one might almost say ‘groomed’ — for the part he 
was eventually to play. He was estabhshed in the temple itself; 
he was regarded as something between a king and a god; he 
was waited upon hand and foot by notables of the community, 
under the constant supervision of the temple priests. On the 
rare occasions when he was permitted to descend the stone steps 
of the temple and walk in the streets below, the people made 
holiday and he was regarded with awe, as a visitor, almost, 
from another planet. 

For the three weeks of April preceding the Feast of Toxcad he 
was attended day and night by four young and beautiful 
‘brides’. These were known as the Goddess of Flowers, the 
Goddess of the Young Gom, the Goddess of Our Mother- 
among-the-Water, and the Goddess of Salt. They were 
beautiful and ardent and — what is more — dedicated. With 
them, for those blissful weeks, he lived a fife of supreme 

On the day of the Feast of Toxcatl the young man was taken 
fixjm the temple where he had lived for the past year and 


brought to a hilltop near the great lake. There he said farewell 
to the four ‘bride-goddesses’. Then he walked on, alone, to a 
special temple where the priests awaited him. Immediately 
his shadow crossed the temple threshold, the priests seized him 
and the High Priest swiftly sacrificed him in the traditional 
ceremonial manner. A ‘ divine king’ had been slain in homage 
to the king-god whom he represented; and immediately the 
heart ceased to palpitate, his successor was announced and the 
long ritual process began all over again. It was an ancient and 
a grisly version of ‘ Le Roi est mort : Vive le Roi ! ’ 

Women, too, in the Aztec religious festivals, had their part to 
play. When the maize crop — the basic cereal crop of Mexico 
— had come near to full ripeness, a goddess representing the 
maize, Xilonen, was sacrificed as the climax to a long succession 
of ceremonial dances in which the dancers carried lighted 
symbolical torches. The woman, or girl, was clad in the full 
robes associated with the goddess with whom she was tem- 
porarily identified. Her face was painted in yellow and red, 
to represent the ripened grain, and her arms and legs were 
adorned with bright red feathers. She was equipped with a 
shield and a brilliant red baton. 

During the night before the festival she danced continuously 
outside and inside the temple of Xilonen; on the day of the 
festival she was seized by a priest and brought swiftly into the 
presence of the goddess’s High Priest himself. The manner of 
the sacrifice here differed from that which was usual for male 
victims. The priest who had seized her carried her on his 
back, while the High Priest first cut off her head, and then tore 
her heart from her breast. 

The Aztec harvest festival also involved a woman victim. 
A woman was selected with the greatest care to represent 
Teteoinnan, the Earth-Mother. At midnight on August 21st, 
this woman was decapitated by the priests and flayed. Her 
skin was then donned by a young man, who identified himself 
temporarily with the goddess. But the skin of one of the 
woman’s thighs was removed separately from the rest, and was 
taken ceremonially to another temple to be worn as a mask by 
the High Priest serving Centeotl, the Maize Goddess. 

There was still a further elaboration of this complex cere- 
mony. The young man who had donned the victim’s skin and 


was now impersonating the Earth-Mother, was taken to the 
altar of her temple and clothed in her symbolic apparel. 
There, he ritualistically sacrificed four selected victims, the 
object being the symbolic impregnation of the goddess — whose 
own fertility was so vital to the people’s welfare. The last stage 
in this annual ceremony was twofold : the High Priest who had 
been wearing the mask made of a portion of the victim’s thigh- 
skin, deposited his mask on some outlying frontier post of the 
Aztec territory; the young man who had been wearing the 
victim’s skin save for that portion, and who had thus been 
identified with the goddess herself, was banished altogether ! 

The climax of the whole Aztec year was in January, when the 
festival of the God of Fire was celebrated. Oddly enough, 
though this was the climax of a series of festivals, all of which 
involved sacrifice, at this one the victims for three years out of 
every four were not human beings but animals. But they had 
to be animals captured by children or young persons, who 
brought them to the temples for the priests to sacrifice. 

Every fourth year, however, the victims were human beings; 
and, what is more, human beings in couples. Young men and 
women, newly married, were selected on these special occasions. 
They were ceremonially attired in the robes associated with the 
Fire God, and instead of being sacrificed in the customary 
manner, by the High Priest with the obsidian knife, they were 
thrown in couples into the flames of the Fire God’s altars. 
There they were watched with great attention, and just before 
they gave signs that they were about to expire among the flames, 
they were raked out by the High Priest’s attendants and had 
their hearts tom from their charred flesh. 

It is not easy to see why there should be this curious 
procedure, for on the surface of it nothing could be more apt 
than that pairs of young, healthy creatures, male and female, 
should feed the flames dedicated to a god. It is possible that 
this refinement of cruelty was designed to ensure Aat the Fire 
God should be fed first with the living bodies of his victims, and 
then have their hearts — the vital source of their energy — 
separately offered to him. 

Anthropologists maintain that customs such as these which 
have just been described reached their apotheosis among the 
Aztec communities in the fifteenth century. Furthermore, 


such was the power and influence of the Aztecs that similar 
religious customs were traced among other tribes of Central 
and Southern America — notably among the Incas of Peru and 
the scattered tribes in Ecuador. Even after the Spaniards’ 
arrival and occupation of so much of this territory it seems that 
these practices survived. Maize was the basic foodstuff of these 
peoples; and maize crops needed adequate sun and adequate 
rain if they were to meet the demands of the people. Without 
a constant supply of sacrificial victims, the Earth-Mother 
would lose the co-operation of her fellow-gods, and swift and 
certain starvation would ensue. 

It is known that these practices, if in modified form, survived 
not merely the arrival of the Spaniards but for some centuries 
thereafter. April 22nd/23rd was an important date also for 
the Pawnee Indians ; among them as recently as 1 838 there was 
a case of human sacrifice which has close parallels with the 
elaborate ritual of the Aztecs in their heyday. 

A girl in her earliest teens was selected for sacrifice. For a 
period — not of months, as with the Aztecs, but of days — she was 
conducted through the village, from wigwam to wigwam, in 
a procession headed by the chiefs and warriors. At each 
stopping-place she received a gift. When the last one had 
been reached, she was painted red and black — an echo of the 
Aztec painting to represent the colours of the maize crop — and 
then placed over an open fire and slowly roasted to death, 
while tribesmen shot arrows at her body to spill her blood. 

At the appointed moment the chief sacrificer tore out her 
heart and ate it. The remainder of her body was then cere- 
monially cut up into small portions, which were placed in 
baskets and taken out to the maize fields. The next stage in 
the ceremonial was to take the pieces of flesh, one at a time, 
from the baskets and carefully squeeze drops of the warm blood 
on the newly planted grain. By this process, they beheved, the 
seeds would be vitalised. The fragments of flesh, squeezed 
almost dry of blood, were then made into a sort of paste which 
was carefully rubbed over root vegetables such as potatoes to 
bring them safely to maturity. 

It will be seen from this example, horrible as it is, that the 
element of cannibalism is reduced here to an absolute mim- 
mum: the ritual devouring of the heart of the child by the 


sacrificing priest. The gesture, obviously, is to identify the 
priest, as representative of the god, with the child-victim whose 
blood will later vitalise the planted grain. The underlying 
belief is a widespread one, and need not necessarily involve the 
consumption of human flesh, though the flesh is indeed 
devoured symbolically. 

In Bengal, for example, a Dravidian tribe known as the 
Khonds used regularly to sacrifice a victim they referred to as 
Meriah, in order to guarantee good crops in their locality. 
The victim in this case was not a girl but a young man, and a 
young man who must come from a pious home. He was 
treated with the utmost reverence during the period preceding 
the sacrifice, and on the day of the sacrifice was brought in 
solemn procession to the sacred grove where the priests 

The Khond priests appear to have been conscious of the 
‘ guilt ’ attached to such sacrifice, and went to great lengths to 
exonerate themselves before carrying out their sacrificial deed. 
The method of sacrifice did not, in their case, involve fire. 
Usually the victim was strangled, or squeezed to death; alter- 
natively he was strapped to a wooden image of an elephant, 
which curiously enough represented the Earth Goddess. Thus 
strapped to the elephant, he was cut to pieces while still ahve : 
a method of despatch which echoes the Aztec practice of 
decapitating a woman victim while held on the back of a priest 
of the temple. 

When the victim had eventually died as a result of this piece- 
meal carving up by the priest’s knife, his flesh was divided into 
two main portions. One of these was buried in the ground as 
an oblation to the Earth Goddess ; the other was distributed in 
carefully proportioned shares among the heads of families. 
These portions were ceremonially wrapped in leaves and then 
interred in the most important and deserving fields, or even 
suspended from a pole over a stream whose waters irrigated the 
fields. The head, bones and intestines were burned and the 
ashes then scattered over the other fields, the granaries and 
store-houses; and the surplus, if any, sprinkled over the first 
com to be gathered in. 

The Aztecs, then, though they practised cannibalism, did so 
only because the consumption of human flesh had come to be 


an integral part — and a small part at that — of an elaborate 
system of sacrificial ceremonial that was aimed primarily at the 
propitiating of one or other of their gods or goddesses. The 
general impression that one gains, from examining the evidence, 
is that their attitude towards the whole matter was diametrically 
opposed to that of the Fijian Islanders, and of the other 
Melanesian tribes whose practices have still to be considered. 
They were, of course, a far more highly developed race than the 
Fijians ever were, or are ever likely to become; there is thought 
— deep thought — behind their actions; thought amounting 
almost to a philosophy. Amounting certainly to what passes 
for a religion. But, unaccountably, the Aztecs do not appear 
to have evolved a mythology of their own : not, at any rate, a 
mythology comparable with that, say, of the ancient Greeks, of 
the Scandinavians; or even of the North American Indians. 
We turn to them next. 




IVIany of us were brought up on Fenimore Cooper’s Last of 
the Mohicans’, on stories of Redskins and Cowboys, and films 
based on these stories; or on Longfellow’s Song of Hiaxvaiha. 
We used to be, and perhaps still are — if we remain sufficiently 
young in heart — addicted to these stories, these never-to-be- 
completed sagas. We may know that the richest store of all, 
and the most romantic, is to be found in the long, rambling 
poem that tells of Gitche Manitou the Mighty, of Ishkoodah the 
Comet, of Mudjekeewis with his belt of wampum, of Chibiabos 
the Musician, and the Very Strong One, Kwasind, and teUs at 
great (but for many of us never too great) length the story of 
Hiawatha and Minnehaha, ‘Laughing Water’. 

These stories are the mythology of the Delawares and 
Mohawks, the Choctaws and Camanches, the Shoshonies and 
Blackfeet, the Hurons and Ojibways, and many other tribes 
whom, for convenience, Longfellow grouped about the 
Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior, the true home of the 
Ojibways, “in the region”, as he says, “between the Pictured 
Rocks and the Grand Sable”. And what better situation for 
them could be found than near the ‘ Picture Rocks ’, when the 
saga of their lives is one vast, crowded, colourful canvas? 

He did not, however, include among the tribes whose stories 
he told a tribe of North American Indians whose home was 
some two thousand miles to the west of Lake Superior, on the 
American-Canadian frontier where it abandons its die-straight, 
arbitrary line and hooks down through Juan de Fuca Strait to 
take in the southern extremity of Vancouver Island. These 
are the Kwakiutl Indians. 

The Kwakiutl Indians for the most part occupied a strip of 
territory along the North-east Pacific coastline which includes 
Rivers Inlet and Cape Mudge. They were hunters, of course — 
as all North- American Indians were and remain; hxmters and 



trappers. But ako, because of their situation, fishers too. The 
hilk and forests of British Columbia formed their hinterland; 
the cold Pacific their fi-ontier. The mighty wall of the northern 
Rocky Mountains was the backcloth to their lives : a backcloth 
through which they had no desire to penetrate, for they were a 
self-contained community of many tribes, and clans within 
their tribes; a community close knit and with peculiarly close 
ties with the great gods, good and evil, and the Guardian and 
other Spirits of their tribes. 

Like all communities that are more than ordinarily isolated, 
by some geographical or other feature, they tended to turn in 
upon themselves. Their legends, stories and — so far as the 
word is apt in thk context — hktory are more concerned with 
their inter-tribal relationships, and their relationships with their 
tribal gods and Guardian Spirits, than with other peoples hving 
beyond the fringe of their territories. It k therefore not sur- 
prising that a tribal mythology has evolved among the Kwakiutl 
Indians that is not easy to parallel anywhere eke in the world. 

They claim their origin variously: the tribe’s mythical 
ancestor was one who either descended into their territory from 
heaven, or arose from the underworld, or emerged from the 
depths of the ocean itself. How long ago this was, they have 
no means of computing; but it is evident from the enormous 
body of legend — amounting to a saga that makes Longfellow’s 
Song of Hiawatha look like a shorthand jotting in a small note- 
book — that it was a long while ago. For every tribe has its own 
tutelary deities ; every tribe has its covey of Spirits, some good, 
some evil, who must be propitiated, flattered or warily guarded 
against. It is this abnormally close and, as it were, personal 
relationship between tribes and clans and tribal gods and spirits 
which accounts for the wealth of fascinating detail, the fantastic 
variety of story and picture, that k the common property of the 
Kwakiutk, and has been over a period of years collected, 
recorded and collated. With them, far more than with the 
Aztecs, religion and the life of the tribe, collectively and 
individually, was a highly personal affair that called for constant 
watchfulness and presence of mind, enterprise, courage and 

One of the complications in their lives was the disconcerting 
knowledge that the supernatural powers — the gods and spirits — 


which were favourably disposed to the tribal ancestors might 
not continue generation after generation to be well disposed 
towards their descendants. Fortunately, however, they be- 
lieved that there were other spirits which of their own volition 
remained in contact with the Indians and were prepared, for 
a consideration, to endow them with something at any rate of 
their own supernatural powers. The problem was always to 
ascertain who was who, and which was which. A false step 
could prove disastrous. 

The first step which a Kwakiutl Indian takes is, not unnatur- 
ally, to obtain the favourable regard, and thence the protection, 
of one of the tribal spirits. His choice is reasonably wide, but 
he will act to a large extent on the advice of the elders of his 
clan, allowing his own inclination to temper their advice within 
moderation. By obtaining the protection of this spirit he will, 
the Kwakiutl believes, become imbued with some at any rate of 
the main characteristics of the spirit, and thus become superior 
in some respects (if stiU inferior in others) to many of his fellow 

He may choose, for example, to seek the sponsorship of 
Winalagilis, a warrior whose home is in the distant north of the 
territory but who is rarely at home because he is a restless spirit 
whose pleasure it is to rove the whole earth waging individual 
wars where he will and when he will, except that it must always 
be against some people whom he can reach without leaving 
his canoe. Sponsorship by Winalagilis will endow the Kwa- 
kiutl youth with any one of three characteristics, each of which 
should stand him in good stead throughout his life : he will be 
invulnerable; or he will have the power of command over the 
Disease Spirit, which was thought to be an invisible worm 
constantly gliding through the air and able to deal mortal 
blows at anyone to whom it was directed ; or finally he may be 
capable of being wounded without either feeling pain or being 
in fact injured at all. 

Again, he could seek the protection of Matem, a strange bird 
known to inhabit the summits of certain mountains, each in 
turn, and able to transmit to any Kwakiutl on whom it looked 
with favour the ability to fly. 

Yet again — and here we have the most elaborate and 
certainly the most interesting, if the most horrific, of these 


notions — the youthful Kwakiutl could enlist the protection of 
the fearsome Baxbakualanuxsiwae. His mouthful of a name 
means ‘He-who-is-First-to-eat-Man-at-the-mouth-of-the-River’. 
His home was known to be on the slopes of the great mountains. 
From the chimney of his house blood-red smoke rose in a 
continuous billowing cloud. He shared his house with his wife, 
Qpminoqa, a terrifying female who was responsible for procur- 
ing his meals. She was assisted by a female slave, Kinqalalala, 
who had the job of rounding up the victims and collecting corpses. 

At the door of this malodorous house perched another slave, a 
raven named Qpaxqoaxualanuxsiwae, whose specific privilege 
was to eat the eyes from the bodies discarded by his master 
when his appetite was glutted. A companion at the threshold 
to this house was Hoxhok, a fabulous bird of no known species, 
with a formidable beak used for picking out the brains from 
skulls which it had first cracked with one well-aimed blow. 
There was also, as attendant on the owner of the house and his 
motiey companions, a grizzly bear, Haialikilal. 

The Kwakiud youth who decides to seek the patronage of 
Baxbakualanuxsiwae will, if he is successful, join that corps 
d' elite in the tribe known as the Hamatsas. These held a special 
position in the tribe, and a very privileged one; they were at 
liberty to eat human flesh — whether the victim was an enemy 
slain in battle or captured on a foray, or a fellow member of the 
tribe. The Hamatsas were, in a word, licenced cannibals, 
whose privilege, and even duty, was to maintain an affinity 
with Baxbakualanuxsiwae by sharing his passion for human 
flesh. But, as we shall see, this privilege was wrapped about by 
an extraordinary cocoon of duty and tabu. 

Since this particular tribal spirit was such a fierce and 
voracious character, it is natural that the legends that were 
evolved concerning him were more elaborate, more terrifying 
in their detail, than those which were recounted concerning 
such relatively mild-mannered individuals as, say, Winalagilis 
or Matem. There are infinite variations, for example, in the 
legend the Kwakiutls tell of how their ancestors, ‘in the dark 
backward and abysm of time’, first made contact with the 
spirit who became such a dangerous acquisition to their tribe. 

Nanwaqawe (one of the legends runs), a Chief of the 
Kwakiutls in their earliest days, had four sons who occupied all 


their time in hunting the mountain-goat. In those days 
members of the Kwakiutl tribe were constantly disappearing, 
one after another, in the most mysterious fashion. Soon, the 
women of the tribe lamented, we shall no more have husbands, 
brothers or sons — ^for it was the menfolk who most often 

At last a day came when the chief knew he must find out what 
was happening to the men of his tribe. He, and only he, knew 
of the existence of a spirit in the mountains powerful enough to 
cause these men to disappear. And he knew that in allowing 
his four beloved sons to range the mountains for goats he was 
allowing them also to risk their lives. Nevertheless, as chief of 
his tribe, he knew that it was his duty to solve the mystery. So, 
the day came when he called his four sons, Tawixamaye, his 
eldest son, Qpaqoasililagilis, his second son, Yaqois, his third 
son, and his youngest son, Nulilokue, and bade them listen 
carefully to his words. 

“Go into the mountains, my sons,” he said solemnly, “and 
when you come near to a house on the mountainside the smoke 
of which looks red like blood, do not enter it, or you will never 
return home. It is the house of Baxbakualanuxsiwae. Do not 
enter, either, the house on the mountainside the smoke of 
which is grey on one side; for that is the house of the grizzly 
bear, Haialikilal. Harm will befall you, if you enter that 
house. But now go, my very dear sons, and keep wide open 
your eyes as you go, or you will not return.” 

Early the next morning the four young men left their father’s 
house, and by noon they had come within sight of the house on 
the mountainside from which grey smoke rose into the sky. 
Then the eldest son said to his brothers: “This is the house of 
the grizzly bear that perhaps has eaten our fellows. Let us see 
if our father’s warning is good.” 

As they approached, the grizzly bear came out, crossing his 
own threshold, and blood and flesh dripped from his yellow fangs. 

''That,” cried the eldest brother, “must be the blood of a 
Kwakiutl! Come, let us slay this bear.” 

All the rest of the day the four brothers fought with the grizzly 
bear, Haialikilal, whose great yellow teeth were bared to seize 
their flesh. But as darkness fell, the eldest brother struck a 
shrewd blow and broke the bear’s skull, and at last he dropped 


lifeless at their feet. They looked inside the grizzly bear’s 
house, and saw that the beaten floor was strewn with human 
bones and skulls. 

“Come,” said the eldest brother, “our journey into the 
mountains is not yet completed.” 

Though night had begun to fall, they walked on and on, until 
at last the youngest brother, Nuhlokue, dropped exhausted to 
the ground unable to go any further. So they all lay down 
close to him, and slept until daybreak. 

Next morning they walked on, climbing steadily up the 
mountainside, till they saw in the distance a great pillar of 
smoke, red hke blood, rising into the heavens, and they knew 
they were looking at the house of Baxbakualanuxsiwae. 

“ Come, my dear brothers,” said the eldest son, “let us go and 
see if our father’s warning is good.” 

They continued on their way, walking more rapidly now, and 
came at length to the threshold of the house on the mountain- 
side from which the great plume of blood-red smoke rose to the 
heavens, making the sky murky overhead. The eldest brother 
hammered upon the closed door; but there was no reply, no 
sound at all from within. He hammered again, and yet again ; 
and because there was still no sound from within, at length he 
opened the door and the four of them went into the darkness 
beyond the threshold. 

Then, from the murky, smoke-filled darkness a woman’s voice 
spoke to them : “ Help me ! ” it cried. “ I am rooted to the floor. 
Help me ! Then I may help you — whom I have long awaited.” 

“What must we do to help you?” asked the eldest brother. 

“Exactly what I tell you,” answered the woman’s voice, 
coming to them from the smoky darkness through which they 
could as yet see nothing at all. “Do not take any notice of 
anything you may see when the smoke clears. But dig a deep 
hole in the floor. Then place stones in this fire, and afterwards, 
when they are red-hot, throw them into the hole that you have 
dug in the floor.” 

When the four brothers had done as she bade them, she said : 
“Now, cover the hole with boards. As soon as Baxbakuala- 
nuxsiwae returns from hunting — for this is his house — he will put 
his mask over his face and begin to dance.” 

Hardly had the woman spoken these words than the four 


brothers quickly laid boards over the hole into which they had 
thrown the red-hot stones. And hardly had they done this 
than they heard a fierce whistling sound beyond the threshold. 
Then the doorway was darkened and the sunlight blotted out, 
as the great form of Baxbakualanuxsiwae filled it. In he came, 
and stood a moment just inside the doorway and called out his 
terrible cry: “Hap! Hap! Hap! Hap!” — “Eat! Eat! 
Eat! Eat!” And as he did so, the Hoxhok, with its great 
beak, as long as a man’s hand and as hard as stone, and 
Qpaxqoaxualanuxsiwae, the eyebaU-eating raven, began also 
to cry out: “Hap! Hap! Hap! Hap!” 

Then Baxbakualanuxsiwae lay down on the beaten earth 
floor and the four brothers, the youngest one cowering behind 
the older ones, saw that his whole body was covered aU over 
with gaping, blood-stained mouths. The monster then rose 
from the floor and began prowling round in the murky, smoke- 
filled darkness, continuously crying out “Hap! Hap! Hap! 
Hap ! ” in a voice of increasing excitement. The raven, mean- 
while, whose feathers covered him from his head down to his 
waist, danced wildly in front of him, in front of the fire, from 
which the blood-red smoke ascended to a hole in the roof. 
Then the bird with the great stone beak came in, and it too 
danced in front of the fire, and all three of them cried out con- 
tinuously: “Hap! Hap! Hap! Hap!” their cries becom- 
ing fiercer and fiercer all the time. And as they cried their 
terrible cry, they danced ever more wildly in front of the fire. 

Then, from a room in the back of the house, there came first 
Qpminoqa, the spirit’s wife, and danced and sang and cried in 
a great voice: “Hoip!” and “Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!” 
And after her came Kinqalalala, the female slave, and she too 
danced and cried “Hoip!” and “Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!” 

At last Baxbakualanuxsiwae’s great feet came close to the 
edge of the pit which the four brothers had dug in the floor. 
Waiting his opportunity, the eldest brother suddenly snatched 
away the boards they had laid over the pit, and Baxbakuala- 
nuxsiwae, still dancing and crying out “Hap! Hap! Hap! 
Hap! plunged to the bottom of the pit among the red-hot 
stones that glowed there in the murky darkness. 

“Now— quick! Bury him!” shrieked the woman who had 
bidden them dig the hole in the floor. And, quick as lightning. 


the four brothers threw into the hole more stones and sods and 
earth till the hole was almost filled. 

And now, Baxbakualanuxsiwae was dying. His flesh 
steamed and hissed on the red-hot stones, and the smoke of it 
rose to join the blood-red smoke that poured out through the 
hole in the roof of his house. And then he died. And at the 
moment when he died, his wife and his female slave died too; 
and the two grisly birds vanished. 

“Now take Baxbakualanuxsiwae’s ornaments of red cedar 
bark,” said the woman, “and his masks and whistles and his 
totem-pole, which is the Hamatsa Pole. But before you go, 
you shall learn from me the Song of Baxbakualanuxsiwae.” 

But the eldest son replied : “ First we will go home and tell 
our dear father all that we have seen and heard and done since 
we left him. Then may be we will return, bringing him with 
us that he may see for himself” And with that, they left the 
house and went swiftly back dovm the mountainside to their 
father’s house by the great river, where they told him all that 
had befallen them. 

“I will come with you and see this wonder for myself,” said 
the chieftain, who was their father, and at dawn they set out 
once again up the mountainside. 

When they had come to the house, from the roof of which a 
Httle blood-red smoke still Jiscended into the heavens, the 
woman who was rooted to the floor offered them food and said 
to them: “Now you shall dance, and possess among you the 
cannibal mask — the mask of the Hamatsa — and the mask also 
of the raven and the meisk of the Hoxhok, and besides that, all 
the red cedar bark. And also the whistles of Baxbakualanuxsi- 
wae. But before that, I will teach you the secret songs.” 

When the woman who was rooted to the floor had ended her 
songs, the chief asked her: “Now, teU me who you are?” 

And the woman laughed a terrible laugh and replied: “So 
you do not know who I am? I am — ^your own long-lost 
daughter, whom Baxbakualanuxsiwae the Cannibal would not 
devour but preferred to keep rooted to the floor of his house, so 
that he might scorn me to the end of time.” 

And her father said: “I rejoice. And these your foiu: 
brothers rejoice with me that we have found you at last. Now, 
let us all return to our home together and feast there.” 



But the woman wept, and answered: “Alas, it is impossible 
that I should go with you to your house, dear father, with these 
my four new-found brothers, for I am rooted to the ground and 
am unable to move from this spot where I stand.” 

“Then we will dig you out,” said her father, and bade the 
four brothers set to work at once. 

This they did with a will; but the further down they dug, the 
thicker became the root, and at last they knew that they could 
never succeed in uprooting her. 

“ If you cut the root,” said the woman, sorrowfully, “ I must 
surely die. So now you must aU return home, without me. 
And as soon as you reach your home on the great river, you 
must give a Winter Dance. Let my eldest brother, Tawixa- 
maye, disappear, and he shall afterwards become Hamatsa, the 
Cannibal. Then, four days later, let Qpaqoasililagilis dis- 
appear also; and he shall become Qpminoqa and set about 
finding food for the Hamatsa. And thenceforward let the 
Hamatsa do no work whatsoever, or else he will die early.” 

And so, sorrowfully, the chieftain and his four sons went 
home as they were bidden to do by the woman rooted to the 
floor of the house. And there they made a great feast, accom- 
panied by much ceremonial dancing, as the woman had in- 
structed them. And immediately after the feast Tawixamaye 
disappeared, and in due course became the tribe’s first Hamatsa, 
exactly as the woman had foretold, and his brother served him 
as he had been bidden he must do. 

Now, these dances were an essential part of the life of the 
Kwakiutls. They had a fundamental purpose, for they reveal 
that the dancer is impersonating the spirit. Just as Baxbaku- 
alanuxsiwae had danced on the floor of his house before plung- 
ing to his grisly death on the red-hot stones in the pit that the 
brothers had dug for him, so the protege of the spirit, the young 
Kwakiutl who has sought his patronage, must dance. He 
wears the fearsome mask, and carries with him various of the 
spirits’ possessions as further evidence that he and the spirit 
are one. The dance is a dramatic presentation of that part of the 
myth relating to the transfer of the spirit to the Kwakiutl youth. 
The dance is the youth’s way — or one of his ways — of proving 
to his fellow tribesmen that he has been accepted by the spirit. 

But, as the superstitions of the Kwakiu^ developed and 


became more complex, and at the same time more gripping, 
the ceremonial dance came to assume another function. The 
youth who had fled — as his ancestor, Tawixamaye had done — 
to live for a while with his patron and imbibe his skill and know- 
ledge and ways, must be brought back to the tribe. And, 
having been brought back to the tribe, must have some part of 
the ‘devil’ in him exorcised, or he would be too dangerous to 
have as a member of the tribe. The ceremonial dances came, 
therefore, to play some part in this purgation. They would 
first attract him, so that he came flying back from the deep 
forests into which he had penetrated to find his guardian spirit; 
and having brought him back, would give him an opportunity to 
shed some at any rate of the rage with which he had been filled. 

The would-be Hamatsa, the youth who proposes to identify 
himself with the tribal spirit, Baxbakualanuxsiwae, departs 
into the forest alone, and is expected to remain there, alone 
save for the company of the spirit he has gone to seek, for three 
months or more. Part way through that period, however, 
he returns to the outskirts of his native village, uttering the 
piercing whistling sound, and the dreadful cry, “Hap! Hap! 
Hap ! Hap ! ” which he has now learned from the spirit in the 

Next, he calls loudly for his Kinqalalala, who is always a 
close female relation, and demands that she procure flesh for 
him. Having made this demand, the youth then charges into 
the village among his fellow tribesmen and savagely bites 
pieces out of their arms and chests. 

As soon as he has started doing this, a group of men known as 
the Heliga run towards him, shaking ceremonial rattles which 
are supposed to pacify the budding Hamatsa. There are 
always six of these ‘healers’, whose office in the tribe is heredi- 
tary, and four of them must always accompany the Hamatsa 
when he is in one of his ‘ holy rages ’, or ecstasies. Their duty is 
to stay near him and so far as is possible direct his savage attacks 
on his fellows so that he makes no mistakes — at once restraining 
and advising him. Their cry is a challenge to his: “Hoip! 
Hoip! Hoip! Hoip!” The rattles they carry are always 
either skulls, or wood carved in the shape of a skull, which 
commonsense would suggest is more likely to inflame the 
youth’s passions than to calm them ! 


A few days before the newly-created Hamatsa returns finally 
to his village, at the end of his sojourn in the forest, the veteran 
Hamatsas of the village are summoned. They leave their 
village and take a track through the trees that leads to the hut 
which the young Hamatsa has built for himself. When they 
arrive, they find that he is already provided with a supply of 
human flesh for immediate consumption, and his first greeting 
to them is to say: “These are my travelling provisions, which 
Baxbakualanuxsiwae himself has given to me.” 

Where, in fact, has this human flesh come from? The 
answer is evidence of a curious practice peculiar to the Kwa- 
kiutl tribes, known as ‘Tree Burial’. 

Corpses destined for consumption by the Hamatsa were 
frequently put into wooden chests and the chests carried up to 
the upper branches of trees, as high up as was practicable. 
There, they were exposed to the breezes as well as to the sun, 
and the result was that in many cases they reached a stage of 
natural mummification. 

When a corpse was required for ceremonial consumption, it 
was taken down from the tree and first of all carefully soaked in 
salt water. Then one of the Heliga would take some hemlock 
twigs, remove the leaves, and push the twigs with great care 
beneath the skin of the corpse. Eventually he succeeded in 
that way in removing the decayed part of the flesh. The 
corpse was then laid on the roof of the small hut in the forest in 
which the new Hamatsa was spending the last part of his 
voluntary exile from his village. The hands of the corpse were 
made to dangle over the eaves; the belly was slit open and 
spread wide on a framework of sticks, much as a sheep’s carcass 
is spread in a butcher’s shop; and the Hamatsa lit a fire beneath 
it in order to smoke the corpse. 

Having first greeted the veteran Hamatsas, he would take 
down the smoked corpse and lay it on a clean mat in front of his 
hut. Each Hamatsa then, in strict order of tribal seniority, 
was invited to select the portion of the corpse that he would like 
to eat. 

The Kinqalalala then bent down and picked up the corpse and 
proceeded to walk slowly backwards, with the corpse laid across 
her outstretched arms, facing the Hamatsa all the time. She 
would pass the fire over which the corpse had been smoked, 


followed closely by the Hamatsa. They entered the hut and 
passed through to the rear of it, where the corpse was laid 
ceremonially across a tribal drum. That was the signal for the 
veteran Hamatsas to come rushing in through the hut in a state 
of frenzy and dance round the corpse on the drum, impatient 
to begin their feast. 

But there was one more piece of ritual before they could 
begin. The Kinqalalala had first to eat four mouthfuls of the 
corpse herself. Each bite as she took it was carefully observed 
and counted by all present. After that, each veteran Hamatsa 
in turn took his portion, and every bite was carefully watched 
by the others. It was laid down by tribal law — and the reason 
for this will be seen in due course— that each mouthful must be 
swallowed whole; there must be no chewing of the flesh first. 
And between each mouthful and the next, the Hamatsa must 
drink salt water. 

When this ceremony was over, the Heliga seized a Hamatsa 
each and ran with them swiftly down to the nearest salt water. 
The Hamatsas were made to wade into the water until it 
reached the level of their chests. Then, facing the sunrise, 
each Hamatsa dipped four times beneath the water, each time 
repeating the terrible cry of Baxbakualanuxsiwae : “Hap! 
Hap! Hap! Hap!” The dipping into the salt water was 
believed to dispel the frenzied excitement of the Hamatsas — for 
the time being, at any rate. 

It was then time for the newly-initiated Hamatsa to return to 
his village, having been accepted by the veterans of his tribe. 
His return was marked by prolonged ceremonial dancing — 
dancing in which every motion, every gesture, every grimace, 
had a symbolic meaning; and it was of course the dancing of 
the Hamatsa which was of greatest importance. 

He danced to begin with in a squatting position, which was 
to indicate that he was in a state of tremendous, hardly con- 
trolled, excitement : that of a man looking for human flesh to 
devour. He trembled violently, extending first one arm and 
then the other, while he danced first on one foot and then on 
the other. As he circulated through the dancing-hut, his eyes 
were cast upwards, symbolising the search for a corpse laid on 
the roof above him, and he uttered the terrible cry of the 
Cannibal Spirit: “Hap! Hap! Hap! Hap!” 


Then he changed to an erect posture, dancing in great leaps 
forward and from side to side, hurling himself into all parts of 
the dancing-hut, but still trembhng violently all the time. It 
was then that his Kinqalalala joined in the dance. Repeating 
the ritual of the forest hut, when the veteran Hamatsas had 
come from their share of flesh, she danced backwards, holding 
her arms outstretched towards the young Hamatsa to indicate 
that a corpse still lay across them, waiting to be devoured. 

As she did that, the Hamatsa became more and more excited, 
lunging out towards her to grasp the invisible corpse she was 
pretending to carry. 

During the dancing, the Hamatsa wore a number of sym- 
bohcal ornaments, though for the most part he danced naked 
till, in the final stages, a blanket would be thrown over his 
shoulders. He would wear a head-ring, a neck-ring, a waust- 
ring, wrist- and ankle-rings, and these were often constructed 
from hemlock twigs such as those which had been ceremonially 
used to remove the decaying flesh from the corpse devoured by 
the Hamatsas in the forest hut. His face would be painted, 
nearly always black. But it carried two curved lines painted 
bright red, running from the corners of his mouth to each ear. 
There was symbolism even in these red lines : they represented 
the parts of the newly initiated Hamatsa which had been tom 
from him during the period of his sojourn in the forest lair of 
Baxbakualanuxsiwae. And it was a clear-cut pronouncement 
that this Hamatsa was proposing to five in future off human 
flesh, as his tribal spirit had always done, and those of his own 
ancestors who had identified themselves with it. 

By now, the Hamatsa had been fully recognised and accepted. 
He had still, however, to be fitted into the life and customs of his 
tribe, or clan, and these appear to have become progressively 
more and more complex with every succeeding generation. 

During the first four days after his return and the ceremonial 
dancing he was allowed a great deal of latitude. He might run 
amok and bite flesh from anyone he chose. But after this brief 
period of untrammelled activity, the first of the complex tabus 
settled upon him. The Hamatsa and his attendant Kinqalalala 
had to enter in turn four individual huts, and there eat without 
question whatever was laid before them. Each of these meals 
was repeated four times. 


There were conditions attached to his devouring of human 
flesh, whether that of some victim expressly killed for his 
benefit, or that of some corpse taken down from a Burial Tree. 
For example, immediately the last mouthful of flesh had passed 
his lips, he had to drink a quantity of salt water sufficient to 
bring about a violent fit of vomiting. In his vomiting it was 
essential that the gobbets of flesh he had swallowed — ^it will be 
remembered that he was not allowed to chew, or tear to pieces, 
any morsel of flesh that entered his mouth — must all be 
brought up. They had to be carefully counted by his attend- 
ants. If the number of gobbets failed to tally with the number he 
had swallowed, then his excrement must be carefully examined, 
in order to ensure that the human flesh which had passed his 
lips had been disposed of through one channel or the other. 

The bones of any corpse whose flesh has been eaten by the 
Hamatsa had to be carefully collected, and preserved for a 
period of four lunar months. They were kept first for a short 
period in a part of the hut that faced north, away from the sun; 
then for a similar period in a cavity dug beneath rocks over 
which salt water flowed. Every four days their hiding-place 
was changed about, until the end of the fourth lunar month, 
when the bones were finally put into a canoe, taken out to deep 
water, and ceremonially jettisoned there. 

It is easy to see, in such ritual detail as this, the lurking sense 
of guilt: the Hamatsa was permitted to do as the tribal spirit 
Baxbakualanuxsiwae had always done, and the Hamatsa’s own 
ancestors remote and near; but he must at the same time 
cleanse himself of the evil he wzis permitted to practise. One 
of the cleansing agents was salt sea-water. 

There were other, smaller, more trivial-seeming tabus. 
Even the most personal and intimate of the Hamatsa’s daily 
movements and actions must be scrutinised. For example, 
when he had occasion to defecate, he must always be accom- 
panied by several other Hamatsas, veterans. He must leave 
his hut by the rear door. He, and his companions, must carry 
a small stick of a certain wood. They must seat themselves 
together, and rise together, ceremonially. When they 
returned to their huts they must cross the threshold with their 
right feet foremost, and never look back over their shoulders 
until they were inside. 



For the first four months after his initiation, the Hamatsa had 
to wear on his person a piece of soiled cedar bark. (It will be 
remembered that cedar bark was one of the possessions that 
were taken firom the hut on the mountainside in which Baxba- 
kualanuxsiwae had lived.) He had to live quite alone, and a 
Hamatsa representing the ‘Grizzly Bear’ was stationed at the 
door of his hut to ensure that he had no visitors. He had to eat 
from a bowl that had not been touched by any other member 
of his clan, and the spoon he used must not have been touched 
either. At the end of this period of four months both spoon and 
bowl had to be thrown away where no one else would ever find 

When he wished to drink, the Hamatsa had to dip his bowl 
three times into the stream, and must not ever swallow more 
than four mouthfuls of water at any one time. He had to 
carry with him the wing-bone of an eagle and drink through 
it, so that there was no risk that his lips — over which human 
flesh had passed — would touch it. He must carry with him a 
bone with which to scratch his head for lice and nits, instead of 
using his own finger-nails. 

For a period of sixteen days after eating human flesh he must 
not partake of any warm food, nor blow on warmed food to cool 
it. During this period, and sometimes for even longer, he was 
not allowed to do any work. Nor was he permitted to have 
intercourse with any woman. He may well have found this 
second tabu more difficult to observe, and much less welcome, 
than the first! With so many restrictions and tribal tabus, 
surely the Hamatsa must often have wondered whether his 
privileges were not heavily outweighed by his prohibitions. 

The Kwakiutl Indians have asserted, when interrogated, 
that the practice of cannibalism only became general about a 
hundred years ago. White men who travelled in their territory 
were able to witness many of their ceremonial dances, and two 
of them. Hunt and Moffat, brought back first-hand information 
about their customs. They say that sometimes slaves were 
killed for the benefit of the Hamatsas, and that at other times 
the Hamatsas contented themselves with snatching mouthfuls 
of flesh from their own tribesmen — usually from the chests and 
upper arms of well-fleshed individuals. 

They vouch for an example of ritual cannibalism which took 


place near Fort Rupert. A Kwakiutl shot and wounded a 
slave, who ran away and collapsed on the beach at the water’s 
edge. He was pursued by the tribesmen, including a group of 
the ‘Bear Dancers’ and Hamatsas. The slave’s body was cut 
to pieces with knives while the Hamatsas squatted in a circle 
round them crying out their terrible cry: “Hap! Hap! 
Hap! Hap!” 

Helpless to intervene, Moffat and Hunt watched the Bear 
Dancers snatch up the flesh, warm and quivering, and, growling 
like the Grizzly they represented, offer it to the Hamatsas in 
order of seniority. 

The wife of the dead slave was at the time in Fort Rupert, 
and, like Hunt and Moffat, witnessed the slaughter of her 
husband, helpless to avert it. But she had a weapon that the 
white men did not possess: she could throw a curse over the 

“I will give you five years to live,” she shrieked at them from 
the walls of Fort Rupert. “The Spirit of your Dancing is 
strong, but my spirit is stronger still. You have killed my 
husband with knives; I shall kill you with the point of my 

Within five years of this episode, the white men report, every 
member of the tribe who had taken part in the killing of this 
slave was dead. In memory of the grim episode, a rock on the 
beach where the ritual feast took place was carved into the 
likeness of the Baxbakualanuxsiwae mask. 

The tradition died hard. A Hamatsa demanded that 
another slave — this time a female — should dance for him. She 
stood a moment looking at him in terror, and said: “I will 
dance. But do not get hungry. Do not eat me!” She had 
hardly finished speaking when her master, a fellow member of 
the tribe, split her skull open with an axe, and the Hamatsa 
thereupon began to eat her flesh. This actual Hamatsa was 
still alive towards the end of the nineteenth century, and on 
interrogation remarked, among other things, that it is very 
much harder to consume fresh human flesh than the dried flesh 
of corpses that have been left to mummify in the trees and then 
brought down to appease the Hamatsa’s hunger. He also 
said that it was a common practice to swallow hot water after 
a mouthful of flesh taken from a living body, as it was believed 


that this would cause the inflammation of the wound made by 
the teeth. All cannibal tribes, of course, file their teeth to 
sharp points in order to deal more effectively with their food. 

There was a variant of the practice whereby the returning 
Hamatsa ran riot among the members of his tribe, biting flesh 
from them. Sometimes he brought a corpse with him — that of 
a slave or some victim captured and killed for the purpose. He 
ate part of this corpse after his ceremonial dance was completed, 
but because this was the first corpse to be devoured by him since 
his initiation, it was prepared with extra elaborate care. One 
of the most important details was the removal of the skin at the 
wrists and ankles, for the Kwakiutls beheved that to eat of 
either hand or foot would result in almost immediate death. 
This is one of many examples of the divergencies of custom in 
this respect: to the Kwakiutls, hands and feet were tabu; but 
among the Mangeromas of the Amazon jungles, whose customs 
we shall be examining in due course, the palms of the hands, 
and the soles of the feet, were looked upon as the greatest 
delicacies, and were reserved for those of the tribe who for one 
reason or another demanded priority. 

Most recently, that is to say at the very end of the nineteenth 
century, it seems that the barbarous practices among the 
Kwakiutls had become modified to a very great extent: the 
ceremonial was retained, but symbolism played a larger and 
larger part in the ceremonial, replacing the physical act. For 
example, the late-nineteenth-century Hamatsa did not neces- 
sarily bite a mouthful of flesh from the chest or the arm. 
Instead, he caught a piece of skin between his teeth and sucked 
at it hard, to extract the taste of blood. Then, with a sharp 
kmfe, he would snip off a piece of the skin and pretend to 
swallow it. However, instead of swallowing it in fact, he put it 
into his hair behind his ear, to lie there until the ceremonial 
dancing was over. Then, it was returned to the owner, who 
was thus assured that a piece of his own skin would not eventu- 
ally be used to his harm in some piece of witchcraft. 

It was, as it were, the beginning of the end. From the 
horrors of that house on the mountainside in which Baxbaku- 
alanuxsiwae and his hideous attendants practised their fiendish 
rites, the customs of the Kwakiutls have been refined to a ritual 
dance with gestures hardly more dangerous than mime. 



Before leaving the vast continent of America, with its 
cannibal Aztecs in the centre and its caimibal Kwakiutls on its 
north-westernmost frontier, we should turn to see what South 
America has to offer. 

The central regions of South America are so vast, so inacces- 
sible, so ridden with disease and danger from man and beast and 
insect, that comparatively few white men, explorers or traders, 
have got further than the fringe. Whole expeditions — that of 
Colonel Fawcett, to name only one of the many — have plunged 
into these impenetrable jungles, with their crocodile-filled 
rivers, never to return. 

The Amazon Basin, an area of nearly three million square 
miles, drained by a four-thousand-mile-long multiple river 
which itself is fed by tributaries too numerous to count, let 
alone name, is one of these formidable areas. Another is the 
Matto Grosso, another region of Brazil, further to the south, and 
having its own dangers. Yet a third is the Gran Chaco, on the 
Argentine-Paraguay frontier: fifty thousand square miles of 
almost impenetrable jungle, swamp and interlaced waterways. 
Regions such as these in South America have defied the efforts 
of geographers to chart them; defied the inroads of explorers 
seeking to probe their mysteries; swallowed up the great 
majority of the men intrepid enough to attempt to unravel their 
secrets. It may well be that, somewhere beyond those barriers 
of swamp and river and close-set, foetid jungle, there are tribes 
still living almost exactly as Prehistoric Man Hved. Nothing 
— however astonishing or terrifying — should really be un- 
expected in Central South America. 

Thus, the information that has been extracted from these 
dark and terrible regions is more fragmentary than that which 
has emerged from regions as forbidding even as, say, the Congo 
Basin, parts of Nigeria, or the darker comers of East Africa. 
Few mission stations, for instance, have ever been established 



in these regions ; and of the very few which intrepid missionaries 
have tried to establish, none have survived. A few naturalists, 
like H. W. Bates, succeeded in surveying a small stretch of the 
Amazon and returning to write up notes like The Naturalist on 
the Amazons. Ten years earher, another and less well-known 
naturalist, Russel Wallace, who has been described as ‘the 
co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the Principle of Natural 
Selection’, published a small book which he called Travels on 
the Amazon. This was aU of a hundred years ago; and though 
there have been more recent surveys in the past hundred years, 
by expeditions better equipped, there remains an aura of 
mystery and cruelty that hangs, like a miasma or an exhalation 
from the swamps and foetid undergrowth itself, over the limit- 
less square miles of these regions. 

A. H. Keane, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, 
wrote, some fifty years ago, and without mincing his words, of a 
region less impenetrable than those just mentioned, the eastern 
part of Peru, where the River Ucayali follows fairly closely the 
frontier with Brazil, to flow eventually (as it seems practically 
every northern river must do) into the Amazon: 

The Amajuacas of the Ucayali, near the old Peruvian frontier, 
have been over and over. again converted to Christianity, each 
time relapsing and murdering the evangelists. The Cashibos, 
also of the Ucayali, eat their aged parents, but perhaps more from 
religious sentiment than from cruelty. But religion certainly has 
nothing to do with their habit of imitating the cry of game, to 
decoy and then devour hunters in the forests. 

Before their conversion, it was the practice of the Cocomas of 
the Hualaga, but now removed to the Ucayali, to eat their dead 
relations, and to swallow the ground-up bones in fermented 
drinks, on the plea that it was better to be inside a warm friend 
than buried in the cold earth. Worse things are related of the 
Tupinambas, and of the Tapuyas, and of the Botocudos. 

It is when Keane comes to the southern end of Peru, where it 
touches both Brazil and Bolivia, that his condemnation of the 
region becomes most forceful: 

Beyond the narrow confines of the ‘ Iroquois of the South’, as the 
Aucas just south of the Maule frontier on the southern limit of 
Peru were somewhat inapdy called, much of the land was 
wrapped in darkness and desolation : homo homini lupus erat — Man 
was as a wolf to his fellow-man. Head-hunting, cannibalism in 
exceedingly repulsive forms, brutal treatment of the women and 


children, prevailed amongst the Amazonian and the Brazilian 

There is a certain Biblical, or evangelical, quality in his 
writing, and one would think, from his style, that he was writing 
about the same time as those courageous missionaries Hunt and 
Cargill and their fellows were writing home from Fiji. Yet his 
book appeared less than fifty years ago. 

Russel Wallace, writing over a hundred years ago, wrote as 
an observant naturalist, and emotion is hardly even hinted at in 
this brief account of the customs of some Amazon tribes with 
whom he came in contact : 

The dead are almost always buried in the houses, with their 
bracelets, tobacco-bag and other trinkets upon them. They are 
buried the same day they die; the parents and relations keeping 
up a continual mourning and lamentation over the body from the 
time of death to the time of interment. A few days afterwards, a 
great quantity of caxiri is made, and all friends and relations are 
invited to attend, to mourn for the dead and to dance, sing, and 
cry to his memory. Some of the larger houses have more than a 
hundred graves in them, but when the houses are small, and very 
full, the graves are dug outside. 

The Tarianas and the Tucanos and some other tribes, about a 
month after the funeral, disinter the corpse, which is by then much 
decomposed, and put it in a great pan over the fire till all the 
volatile parts are driven off with a most horrible odour, leaving 
only a black, carbonaceous mass, which is then pounded into a 
fine powder and mixed in several large vats made out of hollowed 
trees, filled with caxiri. This is then drunk by the assembled 
company till all is finished. They believe that thus the virtues of 
the deceased will be transmitted to the drinkers. 

The Cobeus, alone among the Vaupes, are real cannibals. 
They eat those of other tribes whom they kill in battle, and even 
make war for the express purpose of procuring human flesh for 
food. When they have amassed more than they can consume at 
once, they smoke-dry the flesh over the fire and thus preserve it for 
food for a long time. They burn their owm dead, and drink the 
ashes in caxiri in the same way as the Tarianas and the Tucanos. 

H. W. Bates, whose The Naturalist on the Amazons (he was one 
of the earliest to recognise that there was more than one main 
River Amazon; in modem maps the great river is named the 
Amazonas, and where it at last debouches into the Atlantic, 
exactly on the Equator, the map records it as ‘ Mouths of the 
Amazon’) was published in 1863, writes of the Majeronas, 


whose territory, he says, embraces several hundred miles of the 
west bank of the River Jauari, which is one of the larger 
tributaries of the Amazon near the frontier of Venezuela: 

They are a fierce, indomitable and hostile people, like the Araras. 
They are also cannibals. Navigation on the Jauari is rendered 
impossible on account of the Majerdnas lying in wait on its banks 
to intercept and murder all travellers — especially whites. 

Four months before my arrival, two yoimg half-castes (nearly 
white) of the vUlage went to trade on the Jauari, the Majeronas 
having shown signs of abating their hostility a year or two pre- 
viously. They had not been long gone, when their canoe re- 
turned with the news that the two yoimg fellows had been shot 
with arrows, roasted, and eaten by the savages. 

Jose Patricio, with his usual activity in the cause of law and 
order, despatched a party of armed men to make inquiries. 
When they reached the settlement of the horde who had eaten 
the two men, it was found evacuated, with the exception of one 
girl, who had been in the woods when the rest of her people had 
taken flight. The men brought her back with them. 

It was gathered from her that the young men had brought their 
fate on themselves through improper conduct towards the 
Majerdnas women. The girl was taken care of by Senhor Jose 
Patricio, baptised under the name of Maria, and taught Portu- 
guese. I saw a good deal of her, for my friend sent her daily to 
my house to fill the water jars, make the fire, and so forth. I 
gained her goodwill by extracting the grub of an oestrus fly from 
her back, thus curing her of a painful tumour. 

She was decidedly the best-humoured and, to all appearances, 
the kindest-hearted specimen of her race I had yet seen. Her 
ways were more like those of a careless, laughing country wench, 
such as might be met with any day among the labouring class in 
villages in our own country, than a cannibal. Yet I heard this 
artless maiden relate, in the coolest manner possible, how she ate a 
portion of the bodies of the young men whom her tribe had roasted. 

What increased greatly the incongruity of the whole business is 
that the young widow of one of the victims, a neighbour of mine, 
happened to be present during the narrative, and showed her in- 
terest in it by laughing at the broken Portuguese in which the girl 
related her horrible story. 

The South American Missionary Society did actually succeed 
in establishing, and maintaining for a short time, a mission in 
the hardly less hostile region known as El Gran Chaco. One 
of the society’s missionaries was named W. Barbrooke Grubb, a 
Scottish lay missionary who was in fact something of a pioneer 
and explorer in that daunting country. Thirty years or so ago 


a book was published in which some of his experiences were 
related. There is a fine balance between creduhty and 
increduUty in his reports, and he brings a considerable measure 
of the true scientist’s clear-sightedness and sense of proportion 
into what he has to say. 

Although cannibalism is not now practised in the Chaco (he 
wrote, in A Church in the Wilds), the people have many stories about 
it — which may be only invented or may be accounts which have 
reached them referring to some distant tribe. But it is quite 
possible that they are the result of a long-forgotten habit. These 
cannibals are supposed to be located in the far West, and in that 
direction, among the people of Guarani descent, such practices 
are evidently still in vogue. 

One of their stories is as follows : Three venturesome Lenguas, 
curious to know what countries and people lay to the west of their 
own land, set out upon a long journey of discovery. After some 
months of journeying, they accidentally met two men, who 
greeted them in a very friendly manner. Although they eould 
not understand each other’s language, the Lenguas soon dis- 
covered that they would be welcome guests at the village of these 
men. In accordance with signs which were made to them, they 
followed them to their village. 

On nearing it, and before they could see it, they smelt a pecu- 
liarly sickly odour, which surprised them greatly. On their 
arrival they were heartily welcomed by all, and were given food, 
some of which they had never tasted before, but which they say 
they found very palatable. 

Although the people of the village seemed to be so friendly, 
there was something about the place which made them feel un- 
comfortable and suspicious. They could not tell what it was, but 
they had a feeling of insecurity. Just after dark, all the people — 
men, women and children — left the village : the men to bring in 
the heaps of firewood which they had previously cut, and the 
women and children to fetch water from the river near by. 

The Lengua men had previously noticed several long earthen- 
ware pots cooking on the fires. Feeling curious, they took this 
opportunity of being alone to examine their contents. Approach- 
ing one pot, to their horror they discovered the fingers of a human 
hand protruding from a mass of boiling meat, and, stirring the 
contents with the end of their bows, they saw next a foot. In 
another pot, when turning over a large, round piece of meat, a 
human face was exposed. They were filled with horror, disg^t 
and terror, and fled immediately into the woods, making all I^te 
to their homes. 

Barbrooke Grubb adds that although he had heard many 
tales connected with cannibalism, there was every reason to 



believe that it was not practised by what he calls the Gran 
Chaco peoples proper — an odd word, perhaps, to use in such a 
context! He does assert, however, that cannibalism was 
practised by the Chiriguano Indians, whose territories bordered 
on the Chaco itself, and who were sufficiently well known to the 
Chaco tribes for them to be able to report accurately about their 
customs and habits. 

The frontier between Brazil and Northern Peru where it 
reaches its greatest width is exactly marked by the Javary River 
(not to be confused with the Jauari River, many hundreds of 
miles to the east and north, about which H. W. Bates has 
already written) . This river flows northwards into one of the 
great branches of the Amazon, watering a river basin which has 
been well described by F. S. Dellenbaugh: 

The region of the Javary River is one of the most formidable and 
least known portions of the South American continent. It 
abounds with obstacles to exploration of the most overwhelming 
kind. Low, swampy, with a heavy rainfall, it is inundated 
annually, like most of the Amazon Basin, and at time of high 
water the rivers know no limits. Lying, as it does, so near the 
Equator, the heat is intense and constant, oppressive even to the 
native. The forest growth — and it is forest wherever it is not 
river — is forced, as in a huge hot-house, and is so dense as to 
render progress through it extremely difficult. Not only are 
there obstructions in the way of tree trunks, imderbrush and 
trailing vines and creepers like ropes, but the footing is nothing 
more than a mat of interlaced roots. The forest is sombre and 

Disease is rampant, especially on the smaller branches of the 
rivers. The incurable beri-beii and a large assortment of fevers 
claim first place as death-dealers, smiting the traveller with fearful 
facility. Next come a myriad insects and reptiles — alligators, 
huge bird-eating spiders, and snakes of many varieties. Snakes, 
both the poisonous and the non-poisonous kinds, find here condi- 
tions precisely to their liking. The bush-master is met with in the 
more open places, and there are many that are venomous; but 
the most terrifying, though not a biting reptile, is the water-boa, 
or anaconda, the sucuruju. . . . 

It was in this very region that, some fifty years ago, the 
explorer Algot Lange decided to have a look round. He did 
not enter the territory with his eyes closed: already there had 
been expeditions into the region, mainly organised by the 
rubber syndicates, for it was here that wild rubber was to be 


found, and at the turn of the century it was still worth the while 
of the big firms to try further exploitation of the rubber in the 
Amazon Basin, though by then seeds from Brazihan rubber- 
trees had been taken to England, reared in the Kew glass- 
houses, and successfully planted in Malaya and Indonesia. 
Reports from members of these expeditions left no doubt in 
Algot Lange’s mind as to what sort of conditions he was likely 
to experience. Nor, in the event, was he to be disappointed! 

On impulse, Lange decided to join one of these expeditions, 
and he wrote a long account of the expedition, during which 
snake-bite, beii-beri, fever and other enemies had proved fatal 
to so many of his companions, and so very nearly fatal to him- 
self. He was no prose styhst, but he had a toughness and 
resilience and imperviousness to impact, characteristic of the 
finest quality rubber itself. What follows is the tail-end of his 
experiences— told by him in an odd mixture of laconic report- 
age and melodramatic writing. 

I had now only a few boxes of exposed plates (which I eventually 
succeeded in carrying all the way back to New York), and fifty- 
six bullets, the automatic revolver, and the machete. Last but 
not least, I had the hypodermic needle, and a few ampoules. 

We had walked scarcely a quarter of a mile, when Jerome col- 
lapsed. He was beaten, and declared that it was no use to fight 
any more; he begged me to put a bullet through his brain. The 
prospect of another visitation of Death aroused me from my 
stupor. I got him to a dry spot, and found some dry leaves and 
branches with which I started a fire. Jerome was beyond recog- 
nising me. He lay by the fire, drawing long, wheezing breaths, 
and his face was horribly distorted, like that of a man in a violent 
fit. He babbled incessantly to himself, and occasionally stared at 
me and broke out into a shrill, dreadful laughter that made my 
flesh creep. 

All this overwhelmed me and sapped the little energy I had left. 
I threw myself on the ground some distance from the fire, not 
caring if I ever rose again. How long it was before a penetrating, 
weird cry aroused me from this stupor I do not know; but when I 
raised my head I saw that the forest was growing darker as the 
fire burned low. I saw too that Jerome was trying to get on his 
feet, his eyes bulging from their sockets, his face crimson in colour. 
He was on one knee, when the thread of life snapped in him and 
he fell headlong into the fire. I saw this as though through a 
hazy veil, and almost instantly my senses left me again. 

I have no clear knowledge of what happened after this. 
Throughout the rest of the night my madness mercifully left me 


insensible to the full appreciation of the situation and my future 
prospects. It was night once more before I was able to rouse 
myself from my collapse. The fire was out, the forest dark and 
still, except for the weird cry of the owl and the uncanny ‘ Mother- 
of-the-Moon’. Poor Jerome lay quiet among the embers. I 
did not have the courage, even if I had had the strength, to pull 
the body away, for there could be nothing left of his face by now. 
I looked at him once more, shuddering, and because I coiild not 
walk, without any object in mind— just kept moving — just crept 
on, like a sick, worthless dog. 

It would seem that the state of stupor, or at least of hopeless 
confusion, overwhelmed him when he came to record this 
particular moment in print, for he has, up to this point, made 
no mention of leaving the fatal camp and beginning to walk 
on through the jungle. But shortly afterwards he picks up the 
narrative in more coherent style; 

There was no shadow of hope for me, and I had long given up be- 
heving in miracles. For eight days I had scarcely had a mouth- 
ful to eat, except the broiled monkey shot by the young Indian 
some time before. The fever had me completely in its grasp. I 
was left alone, more than a hundred miles from other human 
beings, in absolute wilderness. I measured cynically the 
tenaciousness of life, the thread that yet held me among the 
numbers of the living, and I realised now what a fight between 
life and death meant to a man brought to bay. I had not the 
slightest doubt in my mind that this was the last of me. 

All night long I crawled on and on and ever on, through the 
underbrush, with no sense of direction whatever, and still I am 
sure that I did not crawl in a circle but that I covered a consider- 
able distance. For hours I moved along at the absolute mercy of 
any beast of the forest that might meet me. But the damp dull 
of the approaching morning usual in these regions came to me 
with a cooling touch and restored once more to some extent my 
sanity. My clothes were almost stripped from my body, my 
hands and face were smeared with mud and torn, and my knees 
were a mass of bruises. 

Lange writes more in this vein, and then records how, in his 
state of near-insensibility, he became vaguely aware of the 
sound of dogs barking. He changed the direction of his 
interminable crawling progress through the undergrowth, 
heading for the unexpected sound. And then: 

I saw in front of me a sight which had the same effect as a rescuing 
steamer on the shipwrecked. To my confused vision it seemed 
that I saw men and women and children, and a large, round 


house; I saw parrots fly across the ojien space in brilliant, flashing 
plumage, and heard their shrill screaming. I cried aloud, and 
fell forward. A little curly-haired dog jumped up and com- 
menced licking my face. And then — I knew no more. 

When I came to, I was lying in a comfortable hammock in a 
large, dark room. I heard the murmiur of many voices, and 
presently a man came over and looked at me. I (hd not imder- 
stand where I was, but thought I had finally gone mad. I fell 
asleep again. The next time I woke up I saw an old woman 
leaning over me and holding in her hand a gourd containing 
some chicken broth, which I swallowed slowly, not feeling the 
craving of himger, in fact, not really knowing whether I was alive 
or dead. The old woman had a peculiar piece of wood through 
her lip, and looked very unreal to me, and I soon fell asleep again. 

On the fifth day, so I learned later, I began to feel my senses re- 
turn, my fever commenced to abate, and I was able to grasp the 
fact that I had crawled into the maloca, or communal village of the 
Mangeromas. I was as weak as a kitten, and indeed it has been a 
marvel to me ever since that I succeeded at all in coming out of 
the Shadow. 

As soon as I could get out of my hammock, though I could not 
stand or walk without the aid of two women, I was taken over to a 
man whom I found later to be the chief of the tribe. He was well 
fed, and by his elaborate dress was distinguished from the rest of 
the men. He had a very pleasant, good-natured smile, and 
almost constantly displayed a row of white, sharp-filed teeth. His 
smile gave me confidence, but I very well knew now that I was 
hving among cannibal Indians — whose reputation in this part of 
the Amazon Basin is anything but flattering. 

Lange goes on to say, laconically, that he “prepared for 
this new ordeal without any special fear,” adding that doubtless 
by that time his capacity for emotion of any kind must have 
become pretty well exhausted. He had already experienced 
so much terror that any new terror he might encounter was 
denuded in advance of much of its impact. To be able to 
remark that the cannibal chief’s smile — revealing as it did the 
sharp, filed teeth which are the universal sign of cannibal 
practices — gave him ‘confidence’ is surely evidence of a blind 
spot somewhere in his make-up! So is his pleasant piece of 
under-statement to the eflfect that cannibals in this part of the 
Amazon Basin had a reputation that was ‘anything but 
flattering’ ! He records that he was told in sign language that 
he was welcome to stay among these people for as long as he 
wished to do so, and he offers no hint that there might have 


been in the invitation an ulterior motive, such as that, for 
instance, which had been experienced by the Lenguas of whom 
Barbrooke Grubb recorded their terrifying experience. In 
return, he contrived to explain how it was that he found himself 
in that situation, and he added diplomatically that he con- 
sidered himself “fortunate to have thus found his way to the 
Free Men of the Forest”. His audience came to an end, and 
he was led back to his hammock to sleep and eat and sleep — 
and dream. 

As my faculties slowly returned to their former activity (he con- 
tinues), I looked at these tribesmen and found them very strange 
figures indeed. Every man had two feathers inserted in the 
cartilage of his nose ; at some distance it appeared as if they wore 
moustaches. The chief himself had a sort of feather-dress, reach- 
ing down to his knees. The women wore no clothing whatever, 
their only ornamentation being the oval wooden piece in the 
lower lip and fancifully arranged designs on face, arms and body. 
The colours which they preferred were scarlet and black, and they 
procured these dyes from two plants. They would squeeze the 
pulp of these fruits and apply the richly-colomred juice with their 
fingers, forming one scarlet ring round each eye and finally two 
scarlet bands reaching from the temples to the chin. 

I soon learned that it was impolite to refuse any dish that was 
put in fi-ont of me, no matter how repugnant. One day, the 
Chief ordered me to come over to his family triangle and have 
dinner with him. The meal consisted of some very tender fried 
fish, which were really delicious; then followed three broiled 
parrots, with fried bananas, which were equally good. But then 
came a soup which I could not swallow — the first mouthful tdmost 
choked me. 

The meat which was one of the ingredients of the soup tasted 
and smelt as if it had been kept for weeks, and the herbs which 
were used were so bitter, and gave out such a rank odour, that my 
mouth puckered and the muscles of my throat refused to swallow. 
The Chief looked at me, and frowned — and I remembered the 
forest from which I had lately arrived, and the starvation and 
terrors. I closed my eyes and swallowed the dish, seeking what 
mental relief I could find in the so-called auto-suggestion. I had 
the greatest respect for the impulsive, unreasoning nature of these 
sons of the forest: easily msulted, as I was to find out, they are 
well-nigh implacable. The incident showed me on what a 
slender thread my life hung. 

Lange goes on to describe life among the tribesmen, with 
whom he seems to have achieved an astonishing measure of 
understanding and acceptance. He learned to use their 


weapons, to track with them, to recognise the details of spoor 
and flora and fauna generally which are essential to their way 
of Hfe. But, as he says : 

Within a comparatively short while I was to have evidence of 
what I already suspected: that the Mangeromas were cannibals 
stiU. Two Peruvian caboclos, or half-breeds, had been caught in 
one of the many ingenious and fatal traps this tribe is so expert at 
setting in the jungle. The bodies had been discovered by a tribal 
patrol and carried by them to the maloca for a feast that would be 
associated with an obscure religious rite. 

First, the hands and feet were cut off both corpses, and then 
audience was had with the Chief. He seemed to be well satisfied 
with what had taken place, spoke little, but nodded his head and 
smiled. Shordy after the audience was over, the community be- 
gan to prepare for the feast. The tribal fires were rebuilt, the pots 
and jars were cleaned, and a procedure followed which, to me, 
was frightful. Indeed, I could only hasten to my hammock and 
simulate sleep, for I knew well, from that previous experience of 
the soup, that I would have to partake of the meal now in prepara- 
tion: a horrible meal of human flesh. It was enough for me to 
see them strip the flesh from the palms of the hands and the soles 
of the feet, and clean these delicacies in the lard of the tapir. 

An awful thought coursed through my brain when I beheld the 
men bending eagerly over the pans to see if the meat were done: 
how long would it be, I said to myself, before they would forget 
themselves and place my own extremities in those same pots and 

With a sang-froid almost unbelievable in the circumstances, 
Algot Lange comforts himself with the reflection that when the 
hospitality of the tribe had been extended to him, the Man- 
geroma Chief had assured him that he should not be eaten — 
either fried or stewed”. He says that, with that assurance in 
mind, he slept in peace while the preparations were in full 
swing almost at the very entrance to the hut which had been 
put at his disposal ! 

Presumably he managed with a reasonably good grace to eat 
his share of the feast, for we next find him engaged with the 
Mangeromas in a punitive expedition against a settlement of 
Peruvian caboclos — their arch-enemies. After that, he is 
involved in the defence of the Mangeromas’ own settlement, 
when the Peruvian half-breeds pay a retaliatory visit : 

These marauders came with murder and girl-robbery in their 
black hearts, while the Mangeromas were defending their homes 



and families. After the battle, the Mangeroma Indians cut off 
the hands and feet of their dead or dying enemies and carried 
these home. The women and children received us with great 
demonstrations of joy. Soon the pots and pans were boiling in- 
side the great house, and now the warriors, returned from battle, 
prepared to feast upon the hands and feet of the slain, these por- 
tions having been distributed among the different families. 

He crept into his hammock and lit his pipe, Lange continues 
in a pleasantly reminiscent vein, and incidentally without 
revealing whether or not he actually took part in the feast. 
Had he been Alfred St Johnston, doubtless he would have 
included some bloodthirsty reference to his delight in being 
permitted to indulge as a Cannibal-White ! Then he watched. 

All the men had laid aside their feather-dresses and squirrel-tails, 
and were now moving about among the many fires on the floor of 
the great hut. Some were sitting in groups discussing the battle, 
while women bent over the p)ots to examine the ghastly contents. 
Here, a woman was engaged in stripping the flesh from the palm 
of a hand and the sole of a foot; which operation finished, she 
threw both into a large earthen pot to boU. There, another 
woman was applying a herb-poultice to her husband’s wounds. 
Over it all hung a thick, odoriferous smoke, gradually finding its 
way out through the central opening in the thatched roof. . . . 

Lange eventually recovered sufficiently to return home. 
Rather to his surprise, the Mangeroma Chief permitted him to 
do this. A curious aspect of his book. In the Amazon Jungle, is 
that, among the formal acknowledgements he makes to various 
individuals and organisations that had facilitated his expedition 
into this part of the Amazon Basin, he actually includes one to 
the Cannibal Chief: 

The generous high potentate of the tribe of Mangeroma cannibals 
is the second to whom I wish to express my extreme gratitude, 
although my obligations to him are of a slightly different charac- 
ter: in the first place, because he did not order me to be killed 
zmd served up, well or medium done, to suit his fancy (which he 
had a pierfect right to do) ; and in the second place because he 
took a great deal of interest in my personal welfare, and bestowed 
all manner of strange favoius upon me. 

The macabre insertion — ‘well or medium done’ — ^is charac- 
teristic of the man ; the formal acknowledgement must surely 
be unique, coming as it does from a potential dish of meat to a 
potential consumer of that dish! 



The epithet ‘Darkest’ has for long been automatically 
attributed to the continent of Africa. It is so stiU, today, in 
spite of the great numbers of highly intelligent and civilised 
individuals who have come to us from the various Protectorates 
and other groupings of tribes. This is no doubt, in part, 
because of the vastness of this continent, the area of which 
extends to little short of twelve million square miles, roughly 
equally divided north and south of the Equator, its eastern 
coast washed by the Indian Ocean, its western by the Atlantic. 

It is small wonder, considering the continent’s size, and the 
difficulties of communication, that many of its inhabitants, 
particularly in the remoter districts, have only very recently 
begun to extricate themselves from the superstition and religio- 
magical rites that went with the practice of cannibalism; or 
indeed that there should have existed until comparatively 
recent times tribes whose members habitually devoured human 
flesh not because of any religious significance at all, but because 
it was a satisfactory act of revenge. In fact it is not long since 
tribes could be found whose members ate human flesh for 
what was to them a good and sufficient reason: they liked it, 
and it was readily available to them. 

Much anthropological work has been done in various regions 
of Africa: by C. K. Meek, P. A. Talbot and George Basden, 
for example, in Nigeria; by John Roscoe among the Bagesu of 
Uganda; by L. S. B. Leakey among the Kenya Mau Mau and 
Kikuyu; by E. W. Kapen and James Dennis and many others 
in what is perhaps the most backward region of all, the Congo 
Basin, which lies athwart the Equator and is likely in a very 
short while to equal if not surpass in importance aU other parts 
of Africa because it is one of the world’s two chief sources of 
supply of that vital commodity, uranium. 

North and South Nigeria compose a British Protectorate 

F 8i 


lying sandwiched between French West Africa and French 
Equatorial Africa, with the Gulf of Guinea as seaboard and the 
Equator not far to the south. Its area may not be far short of 
four hundred thousand square miles — even so, but a tiny 
fraction of the northern half of Africa when seen displayed on 
the map; its population hardly exceeds twenty million inhabi- 
tants. Growing towns like Lagos and Ibadan point to its 
steadily increasing development as an exporting country — tin 
and iron ore, bauxite, cocoa, palm-kemels and other substances 
in daily demand flowing from the quays and wharves at the 
mouths of the Niger. 

But all this is of very recent development. It is but a flicker 
of time since, at any rate in the hinterland, among the moun- 
tains and mountainous plateaux such as the Mambila Plateau, 
which averages some 5,000 feet above sea level and is sur- 
roimded by mountains rising to nearly twice that height, with 
remote and isolated settlements on their steep and shaggy 
slopes, cannibal practices were almost universal. 

This particular plateau has been weU described by C. K. 

It is completely covered with soil, outcrops of granite occurring 
only at long intervals. The infertility of the soil forces the natives 
to use fertilising agents in the form of leguminous pigeon-pea 
plants specially cultivated for the purpose. But the plateau is 
eminently suitable for grazing cattle, and on this accoimt, and 
also on accoimt of the absence of noxious flies, is well patronised by 
cattle owners. It is covered with bracken, and there is a great 
variety of flowers, including orchids. There is a complete 
absence of trees except in the gullies, and the dearth of firewood 
entails great hardship on the inhabitants, who have not become 
accustomed yet to the use of clothing. The Mambila men wear 
a loin-covering of cloth; the women are completely nude. 

Meek is writing between the two World Wars : his book was 
published only in 1931, so that what he reports — and he is a 
man who writes dispassionately, objectively — ^is little more than 
a quarter-century old. He turns next to an examination of the 
Mambilas, whom he takes as typical of the Nigerian hinterland 

The Mambila bu^ their dead in graves of the shaft and tunnel 
type. The body is buried naked, all ornaments being removed. 
It is laid on its side in a contracted position, with both hand^ hold- 


ing the head. The face looks towards the west, for it is said by 
the Mambila that a man comes into the world from the east, and 
at death ‘goes west’. 

All the Mambila groups were cannibal until recendy, and most 
of them would be cannibal stiU were it not for fear of the Admini- 
stration. They ate the flesh of their enemies killed in war, and 
among their enemies might be members of a neighbouring village 
with whom they had intermarried when at peace. Thus it might 
happen that a man would kill and eat one of his own relatives. 
Instances have been reported of a man killing and eating his wife’s 
brother during an affray between two villages. But it was stated 
that if a man killed and ate his father-in-law , he would fall ill and 
die. There is evidence, too, that these groups sometimes sold their 
own dead for food. 

Religious ideas were not prominent in the cannibalism of the 
Mambila. Tribesmen who were willing to answer questions 
stated clearly that they ate human flesh purely as meat. When 
they killed an enemy, they cut pieces off his body and ate them 
raw, in situ, without any formalities. Pieces were taken home and 
given to the old men, who ate them from sheer lust of flesh. In 
such cases the flesh might be eaten raw or cooked. Even the 
intestines were eaten, being ripped up, cleaned and boiled. 

On the other hand, it was stated that young men were com- 
pelled to eat, in order to become brave; the conception being, 
apparently, that by eating the flesh of a slain warrior they ab- 
sorbed his courage. The skulls of enemies were preserved, and 
when the young men first went to war they were made to drink 
beer and a certain medicine from one of the skulls, with a view to 
making them fearless. Women, however, were not permitted to 
eat human flesh, and it was not permissible for married men to eat 
the flesh of women who had been killed during an attack on a 
village. But wifeless old men might eat the flesh of a woman with 

The myths, or folk-lore, among these Nigerian tribes cannot 
be said to be as elaborate as that of, say, the Kwakiutls and 
indeed many tribes in other parts of the world. Or it may be 
that tribesmen were more reluctant to reveal them than was 
the case elsewhere. But it would seem from much of the avail- 
able evidence of cannibalism in Nigeria that it was on the 
whole less of a religious ceremonial, and based on a cruder, 
more practical motive. 

There is, however, one picturesque legend which has been 
used by apologists to account for the prevalence until com- 
paratively recently of a practice now recognised as wrong. 
They tell of a hawk that, a long time ago, was seen flying over 


the hut of a chief. It was grasping in its talons a piece of 
human flesh, and as it flew over the open place where the 
chief’s meal was being prepared, the hawk happened to release 
its grip on the piece of flesh. It fell straight into the soup that 
was just then being prepared for the chief, but no one saw it. 

When the chief began to eat his soup, he was so delighted 
with its taste that he called his cooks to his presence and asked 
them what they had put into it, and told them that in future all 
his soup was to have that same taste. 

Naturally the cooks were unable to repeat the taste, as they 
had not seen what fell into it out of the sky. The chief, there- 
fore, had his cooks slain, and appointed others in their place. 
But still no single one of them was able to reproduce the 
individual taste that had so pleased their chief. One after 
another, they tried portions of every animal known to them, 
from mountain tops and valleys and forests and open plains. 
They caught birds, and tried their flesh. They caught fish, 
and tried their flesh. They caught the greater insects, and 
tried them, too; but all without avail: not one single dish of 
soup ever repeated the luscious taste that had so captivated the 

Finally, in a rage of frustration, the chief picked up his club 
and slew his senior cook. “Cut him to pieces with your 
knives,” he bade the others who were cowering round the pot 
in terror. “Cut him into smjdl pieces, and throw them into 
the soup he cannot make ! ” 

Too terrified to disobey, the other cooks drew their knives 
and did as they were told. Piece after piece of their fellow- 
tribesman they threw into the steaming soup. And when it 
was ready, they served it to their chief, watching him in terror 
as he began to eat. 

To their enormous relief, a great grin of contentment spread 
over his face, and they knew that the answer had been found at 
last: it was human flesh that had given that soup the delectable 

Kill me a slave each day,” their chief bade them, as they 
ceased their trembling and stood before him, “and cut him 
into small pieces and throw them into my soup.” 

The legend has a curious twist to it. So gluttonous for 
human flesh did the chief become that in time he had slain 


every member of his tribe who had not taken fright and fled 
from his territory. At last the chief found himself alone. But 
such was his passion, now, for human flesh that he at once began 
to tear from his body pieces of his own flesh. At last little 
remained of him but bone and some of the flesh from those parts 
of his body which he could not reach. And thus he died. 

The legend, at once picturesque and macabre, also suggests a 
primitive consciousness, so slight as to be hardly recognisable 
among the tribes themselves, that the act of cannibalism was an 
evil thing, and must eventually bring retribution on those who 
practise it. 

Anthropologists have collected much data about cannibal 
practices in various parts of this area of Africa. The Ganawuri 
tribe, for instance, removed the flesh from the bodies of their 
fallen enemies, leaving only the intestines and the bones. With 
the flesh spitted on their spear-heads, they rode home to hand 
over their booty to the tribal priests, whose task it was to divide 
it first among the old men. The most important of the old 
men of the Ganawuri tribe would receive the flesh taken from 
the head. The hair was first removed, then the flesh cut into 
strips and cooked and eaten at the sacred stone. The other 
old men of the tribe cooked their own portions of the flesh in 
pots and ate it at a distance. As far as was practicable, this 
feasting always took place on the night of the warriors’ return; 
but however courageous the young men of the tribe might 
have shown themselves, they were rigidly debarred from par- 
taking in the feast. 

This tribe restricted themselves to the consumption of flesh 
from the bodies of enemies slain in battle. They did not 
deliberately kill women of an enemy tribe, and if they did 
inadvertently kill them, they never ate their flesh. A neigh- 
bouring tribe, however, the Ataka, did eat the flesh of enemy 
women, and another tribe, the Tangale, who were essentially 
head-hunters, specialised in the consumption of the flesh of 
enemy women’s heads. As among the Ganawuri, human flesh 
was given first to the old men of the tribe, and on rare occasions 
to the old women of the tribe. They had the right, if they 
wished to exercise it, of giving small portions of the flesh to 
young men whom they specially favoured, but this was a right 
they seldom exercised. 


The Rukuba cannibals also ate their enemies’ and captives’ 
flesh, but among them, too, it was the older men who were 
allowed to indulge before all others. The young men were 
occasionally smeared with the greasy soup that was left in the 
bottom and on the sides of the cooking-pots in which the flesh 
had been boiled. An even more self-sacrificing (if the term 
may be permitted in such a context!) practice existed among 
the Zumperi. They handed over the captured heads for the 
fathers of their tribe to eat, contenting themselves with licking 
off their spear-heads and clubs the congealed blood of their 
enemies, and swallowing it. 

The Kaleri devoured as much as possible of the bodies of 
their victims, and were indeed so bloodthirsty that until very 
recent times they would kill and eat any stranger, black or 
white, presumptuous enough to cross the frontiers of their 
territory. The Yergum waited for two days to expire between 
the return of their warriors from battle and the beginning of 
their feasting. The heads were always boiled separately from 
the rest of the body, and no one in their tribe was permitted to 
eat flesh from the head unless he himself had actually killed 
an enemy in battle or foray. The remainder of the flesh, how- 
ever, was of less significance, and might be consumed by any 
member of the tribe who could get hold of a piece — man, 
woman or even child. Among this tribe even the entrails, 
which were carefully separated from the bodies and discarded 
by such tribes as the Ganawuri, were consumed, after first 
being cleansed with a mixture of ash and running water. 

The Jarawa cannibals used to separate the head from the rest 
of the body, but instead of boiling it in a pot, they coated the 
head with mud, then put the whole into the fire, when the mud 
dried and removed the hair complete, much as gipsies and 
others have cooked hedgehogs from time immemorial. The 
Hill Angas were careful never to eat the flesh either of young 
lads killed or captured, or of old men. They maintained that 
the young lads, if captured alive, were more profitably sold into 
slavery, and the flesh of old men, they thought, was too dried up 
and tough to be really palatable. TTie Sura cannibals, on the 
other hand, added salt and oil to the flesh of their victims when 
boiling them, and were thus well enough satisfied with a wider 
age-range in the selection of their menu. No women of their 


tribe were permitted even to see the flesh, however, but boys 
and young men, if by any chance they showed any reluctance 
to eat of it, were forced to do so by their elders in order that 
their courage might be increased thereby. 

With such a wide variety of detail, it is not easy to distinguish 
among the various motives for cannibalism which prevailed 
imtil comparatively recendy among these various tribes. 
Some of them, obviously — like the Sxura and the Hill Anga 
tribes — believed that soul-stuff", or life-principle, was trans- 
ferred from the victim to the man who devoured him, which is 
why pressure was brought to bear on the immature to eat of the 
flesh of the mature. The HiU Angas refrained from eating 
young men and boys because it was thought that they might 
well not have any virtues worth transferring; and old men 
because any fine qualities they might have had in middle age, 
such as courage, skill in tracking and so forth, would have begun 
to deteriorate. 

In cases where tribal law stipulated that only the old men 
might eat the flesh, as among the Ganawuri, the argument was 
probably that the old men needed an admixture of new blood 
in their veins, whereas the young men of the tribe did not ! 

Certain of these tribes had evolved a fairly elaborate penal 
code in connection with their cannibalistic practices. For 
example, the Hill Angas would eat the flesh of a member of 
their own tribe, if he had been convicted as a criminal and so 
sentenced to death. The Sura would eat the flesh of a woman 
of their own tribe whose crime was that of adultery. The 
Waijawa were prepared to sacrifice any member of their own 
tribe who had violated tribal law, and it is evident that such 
punishment was accompanied by a fairly elaborate ritual. The 
victim was not so much killed as sacrificed; his blood was 
poured out as an oblation; only after this ceremonial was his 
flesh made available for the other members of his or her tribe to 
feast on it. 

There was, among certain tribes, an element of something 
less ignoble than mere lust for human flesh. There was the 
superstition that by wholly destroying the victim’s spirit — as 
they believed they were doing by devouring his head as well as 
his body and Hmbs — they were preventing him from seeking 
any form of vengeance, or return from the after-world to harm 


those who remained behind. Though it was generally believed 
that the spirit resided in the head, it was also believed that the 
spirit was capable of transferring its abode at need from one 
part to another; hence the necessity for total destruction of the 

There was another belief more picturesque than this — 
indeed possessed of an almost charming quality. The Hill 
Angas habitually devoured the old men of their own tribe that 
they might leave the present world while still in possession of 
the greater part of their faculties. A certain squeamishness 
might be noticed in this connection, for often a family who had 
come to this decision would call upon someone from a different, 
and if possible distant, part of the settlement to carry out the 
deed, even offering payment for the service. Then the old 
man’s flesh would be ceremonially devoured, but his head 
would be carefully preserved in a pot, in front of which 
sacrifices would be made, and some sort of prayer spoken, at 
regular intervals afterwards. 

It was among the Yergum and the Tangale tribes, for the 
most part, that the more primitive form of cannibalism was 
practised. Lust for flesh, coupled with the only just less bestial 
motive of the ultimate revenge, was paramount among these 
particular Nigerian tribes. The Tangales even had a ritual 
prayer — or rather, an incantation — which was both an expres- 
sion of hatred and lust and an incitement to greater displays of 
these primitive emotions : 

Here is my enemy. He hates me, and I hate him. He kills me 
when he meets me. My god has now brought him under my 
feet. Let my enemy’s people have their strength taken from them. 
Let their eyes become blind. When the warriors of my tribe go 
to enemies’ territory, let all the enemies quickly die at their hands. 
If any of this enemy’s spirit survives, may he come back to possess 
his own father and his own mother and all the members of his 

The sheer viciousness of the incantation is somehow remini- 
scent of that terrible cry of Baxbakualanuxsiwae : “ Hap ! Hap ! 
Hap! Hap! Lust for human flesh as food may have been 
uppermost in the hearts of the Tangales, but the veins of revenge 
and scorn were threaded through it like the lines of gristle in 
the red flesh they so much enjoyed. 


Another anthropologist, P. A. Talbot, writing at almost 
exactly the same time as C. K. Meek, adds fragmentary 
information about other tribes not referred to by his colleague. 
He makes the uncompromising statement that the practice of 
cannibalism, with its almost invariable accompaniment of head- 
hunting, seems to have been almost universal throughout the 
Nigerian tribes with whom he had had contact, save for the 
Edo, among whom, curiously enough, the eating of human flesh 
wzis tabu, and the Yoruba, among whom the practice was 
mainly restricted to the custom of the chiefs : that of eating a 
part only of either the head or the heart of their predecessors in 
office. The reason (if not the excuse) for this practice is easy 
enough to appreciate. 

Talbot goes on to state that, so far as he could ascertain, the 
practice of cannibalism bore no relation to the state of develop- 
ment, or ‘morality’, of the tribes. It was common, he had 
found, even among those tribes which in other respects had the 
most enlightened standards. Tribesmen, when interrogated, 
he says, stated categorically that they ate human flesh because 
of their great longing for meat. 

All animal and bird flesh (he says) is much liked in those parts, 
but in very many of them it can only be regarded as a luxury, 
since — at any rate with the poorer peoples — it is not very often 
that a man can afford to kill even a fowl. Human ffesh is prefer- 
red above all other flesh for its succulence, and that of the monkey 
is generally considered to come next. The parts in greatest 
favour are the palms of the hands, the fingers, and toes; and, of 
a woman, the breast. The younger the person, the tenderer 
will be the flesh. . . . 

It is interesting to contrtist this attitude with that of the other 
Nigerian tribes, such as the Hill Angas mentioned by G. K. 
Meek, who were unwilling to partaike of the flesh of yoimg 
people. It tends to confirm the distinction; that these other 
tribes were concerned with the eating of human flesh for its 
own sake, and without any secondary motive, such as the 
transference of virtue from the dead to the living. 

Directly an enemy was slain (Talbot continues), his head — and 
sometimes his body, if the people were strongly cannibalistic — was 
taken to the village and a great dance given, either at once, or 
after the skull had been cleaned of its flesh by boiling, or by being 
buried for a time in the ground. At the feast, every man-slayer of 


the village danced round, generally with a skuU in one hand and 
his machete in the other. Sometimes the body of the enemy was 
brought in whole; sometimes it was cut in pieces in advance to 
facilitate transp>ort. It was then boiled in native pots and shared 
out, occasionally among the man-slayer’s family and friends, but 
sometimes among all the people of the village, until it was wholly 
consumed. In some tribes it was forbidden for women and 
children to partake of human flesh; in others, for example among 
the Kalahari, the eldest sister of the hut was forced to taste it, 
however strongly she might protest. 

Among the Abadja, the whole body of anyone slain was ordi- 
narily taken back to the village and there consmned, though it was 
tabu to eat women or children. A man only divided his ‘kill’ 
among his own family. The body was cut up and cooked in 
pots; the fingers, palms of the hands, and toes were considered the 
best eating. Sometimes, if a family had been satisfied, part of the 
body would be dried and put away for later. 

When an Nkanu warrior brought a head back, everyone who 
heard of the deed gave him a present, and much palm-wine was 
drunk. The trophy was boiled, and the flesh cut away. The 
skull was then taken out, accompanied with all the others in the 
village, and the flesh was then boiled and eaten. 

Much cruelty was practised among certain of these tribes. For 
example, the Bafum-Bansaw, who frequently tortured their 
pmoners before putting them to death. Palm-oil was boiled in a 
big pot, and then by means of a gourd enema it was pumped into 
the bowels and stomachs of the prisoners. This practice was said 
to make the bodies much more succulent than they would other- 
wise have been. The bodies were left until the palm-oil had 
permeated them, and then cut up and devoured. . . . 

This anthropologist concludes his observations by remarking 
succinctly : “ There was no idea of inheriting the courage of the 
dead foe by imbibing bravery with his flesh; this was the 
simplest form of cannibalism; Man’s flesh is best of all, and 
afterwards follows monkey’s flesh.” 

George Basden wrote in the dual capacity of amateur anthro- 
pologist and missionary. As one would expect, therefore, his 
report, which was written at about the same time as Meek and 
Talbot were doing research in Nigeria, is marked with a more 
personal note than the others. One has the very clear im- 
pression from what he wrote that this was something he had 
both seen and personally reacted to strongly. He, too, con- 
trives to maintain a skilful balance between cold reportage and 
the emotional comment, and his report is the more valuable for 


that reason. He is particularly concerned with the Ibo tribe, 
whose territory was bounded % one bank of the great River 

The Ibo country lies within the recognised Negro belt, and the 
people bear the main characteristics of that stock. Cannibalism, 
human sacrifices and other savage customs were real facts, and 
flourished within five mUes of Onitsha, and no one would dare 
swear that the inhabitants of even that town were all entirely 
innocent. It is well within living memory (Basden was writing 
only thirty-odd years ago) that human sacrifices were offered — 
the death and burial of a king or notable chief being the most usual 

At one period I was living in a tiny hut set up in the bush some 
five miles east of Onitsha, surrounded by a number of settlements. 
Between two of these there was a feud of long standing. At in- 
tervals war broke out in earnest. During the last campaign one 
party captured, and afterwards ate, seven of their opponents, 
whilst the other party secured only four victims. 

One morning I was walking alone, when I came upon a bundle 
of sticks lying in the path ; to this bundle was attached a clean and 
fresh human skull, which I judged from the teeth and size to be 
that of a young man. It had been utilised as a fetich. It would 
act as a solemn warning to would-be thieves, and such a powerful 
‘ju-ju’ would ensure the owner’s finding his property intact how- 
ever long it was left on the road. It was in close proximity to this 
place that, as was well known, a cannibal feast had lately been 

Amongst our lads there was a small boy whose father had been 
a servant to the Niger Company. Whilst carrying a message to 
Obushi, the father had been murdered, and his body disposed of 
according to time-honoured custom. On one occasion I was 
resting outside my hut when a man of imprepossessing appearance 
came along and entered into conversation. His eldest son, then a 
small lad, had been placed by his father in the care of a missionary, 
in order that he might receive instruction. In the course of his 
remarks, he solemnly asserted that it would be of great benefit to 
his son if he were provided with human flesh sometimes as part of 
his diet. He maintained that if this were done a proper man’s 
spirit would develop in the lad. 

Basden goes on to say that the further south one went, the 
more pronounced were the cannibalistic tendencies among the 
tribes. Though it was generally known that the custom of 
feasting upon captives taken in battle was prevalent throughout 
most of Nigeria, in the southern parts there existed a regular 
traffic in human flesh. Strangers trespassing over frontiers 



were captured with the deliberate intention of killing and 
devouring them; bodies were even purchased, or bartered 
with other tribes whose larders were better stocked. Human 
flesh was, in fact, a marketable commodity, with a recognised 
market price; it was looked upon, in the southern parts of 
Nigeria particularly, as a staple form of diet. 

It is not long (Basden writes) since a certain Chief managed to get 
possession of one of his opponents against whom he had a grudge 
of long standing. He derived satisfaction from first lopping off 
his ears and nose, and afterwards flaying him alive. The carcass 
was eaten, and the skin converted into a drum head. 

There is not a shadow of doubt that, could the history of the 
Ibos be clearly traced, a host of such-like stories would have to be 
recorded. I have become acquainted with many erstwhile 
cannibals, and quite good-natured folk many of them are. One 
week-end I was staying at a place a few miles south-east of 
Onitsha. My quarters were very circumscribed, the only accom- 
modation available being a tiny thatched lean-to shed against the 
compound wall, usually occupied by the goats and fowls. My 
boys and carriers shared the limited acconunodation, lying at 
night alongside the camp-bed. After the evening meal, we settled 
down for the night, long before our customary bedtime; con- 
sequently the men chatted freely. Presently I became interested 
in their conversation, and amongst other items of news, I gathered 
that they had aU had a share in cannibal feasts. 

At first they were reticent, but gradually they opened out, and 
announced what they considered to be the choicest titbits. Those 
they afirrmed, were the knuckles. They were strapping young 
fellows, whom I had got to know sufficiently weU to induce them 
to travel round with me. Since then, they have all become 
Christians; one, a much-respected evangelist! 

Another missionary. Father Bubendorf of Freiburg, who was 
stationed near Onitsha at about the same time, had occasion to 
make a journey from his mission into adjoining territory. He 
reported that he had been a horrified eye-witness of the 
slaughter of a group of captives outside the hut of a tribal 

Every moment, men, women and even children passed me. One 
would be carrying a human leg on his shoulder, another would be 
carrying the lungs or the heart of some unfortunate Kroo-boy in 
his or her hands. Several times I myself was offered my choice of 
one of these morsels, dripping with gore. 


The Rev. E. Deas, of the United Presbyterian Mission, con- 
firmed the many reports of the existence of cannibal markets in 
many parts of Nigeria, and Bishop Crowther wrote : 

Cannibalism is widespread from the delta of the Niger for a long 
way up its course. Among the Okrika Tribe, a hundred and 
fifty prisoners were taken from a tribe on the opposite side of the 
river and divided amongst the chiefs. With the exception of 
eleven, who fell to the lot of converted chiefs, and were therefore 
spared, the remaining 139 prisoners were divided up among the 
chiefs and the men who had captured them, and killed and 
devoured by them. 

A correspondent of The Saturday Review wrote of the unmis- 
takable lust for human flesh among the tribesmen of West 
Africa, and Nigeria in particular, and added: “Young boys 
are brought from the dark interior, kept in pens, fattened upon 
bananas, and finally killed and baked.” 



S o SMALL, in comparison with the vast area of Nigeria, that it 
is almost lost between French Guinea and the Ivory Coast, 
nearly at the westernmost curve of West Africa, is the Pro- 
tectorate of Sierra Leone. Here the tribes are naturally less 
scattered; there is greater homogeneity; communications are 
less difficult. Today, like Nigeria, it is rapidly taking a more 
and more important place in the list of exporting countries, 
with its resources of iron ore, palm kernels and cocoa; and — 
more valuable if on a smaller scale — diamonds and gold. But 
only yesterday, or the day before, it was the home of the dread- 
ful Leopard Societies: one of the very few examples where 
cannibalism has come to be so highly organised, so close-knit 
in its ceremonials and tabus, that it has acquired a name; and 
a name which those who understand its connotations can hardly 
hear without a shudder. 

The Leopard Societies of Sierra Leone existed within the 
memory of living man; indeed, there are those who suspect 
that even now the tradition is not entirely dead. For by very 
long tradition, members of the exclusive Leopard Societies 
were privileged people: like the Hamatsa of the Kwakiutl 
Indians, they had rights over their fellow-men that could not 
be called in question. They were, so to speak, a trade union; 
and a powerful one at that. Furthermore, they had agents, or 
branches, of their trade union tucked unobtrusively into com- 
munities and settlements large and small among the mountains, 
on the plains, on the river banks, in the forests and scrub 
throughout the land. There was a sort of freemasonry about 
their organisation that was a very terrible thing. 

Since the members of the Leopard Societies were privileged 
men (no women were included), there was keen competition for 
membership; and since competition was keen, conditions of 
membership, and above all the initiation-rites, were harsh and 



forbidding. A man had to pay dearly for membership. We 
shall see — ^far away on the other side of this great continent, 
among the closed ranks of the Man Man — initiation rites that 
have something in common with those of the Leopard Societies. 

Any native of Sierra Leone who desired to become a member 
of the Leopard Society — to become, that is, a ‘Leopard Man’ 
— had first to ascertain who the nearest king, or priest, of the 
cult might be. Having found and identified him — not neces- 
sarily an easy matter — he had to approach him, and humbly 
ask him for borjimor, a word best translated by the word 
‘medicine’, but in the sense of the corresponding word 
‘medicine-man’. He would be told that the king, or priest, 
had not the absolute power of decision in this matter, but that 
there were others to be consulted. 

If the candidate for membership were approved, then a 
message would come to him that he was to take a certain road, 
or track through the forest, where he would ‘meet’ the borjimor. 
Having set out along the track, he would in due course 
encounter a group of men who would ask him if he was looking 
for the borjimor. He would naturally answer that he was, 
whereupon he would be asked what he wanted the ‘medicine’ 
for. There was a traditional answer to this formal question — 
an odd reply which has no obvious explanation. “To play 
jagay” he had to reply, mentioning a traditional West African 
game that is played with cowrie-shells and roughly resembles 

If his reply was acceptable he was then called upon to swear, 
and after that there was no turning back. The whole party 
would proceed along the track through the forest or the bush, 
coming (as if by chance) upon a red box, in which the borjimor 
had already been placed. The candidate for membership was 
then given a ‘leopard-knife’. 

The ‘leopard-knife’ varied slightly in detail, but was in 
essence a very terrible weapon. It might be a sort of pronged 
knife, with a double point, or a double knife with two prongs 
each. The prongs, or blades, were double-edged, and in some 
cases were set at an angle to the part that was gripped by 
the user. Whatever their form, they were murderous 

Having received the ‘leopard-knife’, the candidate for 


membership held it firmly and tapped on the side of the box 
contiiining the borfimor. As he did this, he repeated an oath: 
“I come now to get this medicine from these people. After 
this, if I reveal any secret, or betray any fellow-member, then 
as I walk along a track a snake shall bite me; as I go on the sea 
my canoe shall overturn and drown me; in the open places 
when I walk, the lightning shall strike me dead.” 

When the oath had been administered, the party broke up 
and separated for a space of three days. Then they met once 
more, to seek a victim. But before setting forth on their quest 
they took a meal together, prepared and served by the men who 
had met the candidate and admitted him to membership. 
After the meal was ended, the new member was told that he 
had eaten the flesh of a human being, and that act had set the 
final seal on his membership of the Leopard Society. 

Originally, the victim had to be a girl, freeborn (as opposed 
to being the daughter of a slave or captive) and over fourteen 
years old. If possible, she should be the eldest child of the 
family providing her. Each initiate of the Leopard Society 
had to produce as a sacrifice one person of his own blood, or, 
failing tiiat, of the blood of his wife’s family. In more recent 
years, the victim could be a woman or a girl, a man or a boy, 
though stiU the eldest girl was preferred. 

Before the killing of a victim, the ‘medicine’ could be 
‘started’ by putting into the box pieces of the flesh of a new- 
born child who had died at birth, together with certain other 
ingredients; but it was held by the members of the society that 
a medicine made in this way was useful only as a temporary 
measure: it had no real power as a borfimor. 

Two established members of the society accompany the 
initiate on his quest for a victim. Their object is to ‘beg’ for 
a victim; but the form which the begging takes admits of no 
argument. The group, consisting usually of five men, meet 
the mother, or guardian, of the intended victim in a lonely 
place, and speak to her of the necessity of the sacrifice for “the 
well-being of the tribe”. Or it may be that it is a father or 
brother who is approached, and asked for a son or brother. 
Traditionally, the man or the woman refuses; but half- 
heartedly only: they know that the Leopard Society has 
singled them out as a ‘tool’, and that to refuse to co-operate 


would mean more sacrifices, including themselves. By 
co-operating, they become agents of the society. 

When the victim has been agreed upon, and ‘offered’, the 
Leopard Men disperse into the forest or bushland. There, 
they wander about all through the succeeding night, imitating 
the roar of the true leopard, and only ceasing to roar when the 
first light of day begins to penetrate the trees. This roaring has 
to be maintained throughout the whole period leading to the 
actual capture of the victim, and during the ceremony of kiUing, 
or sacrificing, the victim as well. 

The next stage is the selection of a member of the society 
whose strength and animal agility have long been recognised: 
it is he who is to capture the intended victim. He bears a title, 
Yongolado — Man-with-teeth-and-claws. He is equipped with 
a leopard-skin and a pair of leopard-knives. The leopard-skin 
is kept by the chief man of the society, and is never handled by 
anyone except himself, and the Yongolado, except on this 
special occasion. Secrecy surrounds every detail of the pro- 
cedure. The skin, rolled round and containing the knives, is 
handed, under cover of darkness, firom the chief man of the 
society to a trusted lieutenant; from him it passes to another, 
and another, and another, so that no member can say either 
from whom he received it or to whom he handed it on; until 
at last it comes into the hands of the Yongolado. 

The Yongolado puts on the leopard-skin, and looks about him. 
He may find that other members of the society have joined 
him, also wearing some part of the insignia of the leopard. 
Their faces, like his, will now be covered with the leopard’s 
mask, and they will all be holding leopard-knives in their 
hands, protruding through the end of the skins like great claws. 

In many parts of the hinterland of Sierra Leone, the forest, or 
at any rate the bush, came, and sometimes still comes, to 
within a matter of yards of the outer huts of any settlement. 
The Leopard Men approach to the fringe of the undergrowth, 
and make their sinister whistling cry — an echo, here, of the 
whistle of Baxbakualanuxsiwae that preceded his devouring of 
human flesh among the Kwakiutl Indians. The Headman of 
the village recognises the whistle, and he and any Leopard Men 
in the village leave their huts and go out to meet the others in 
the darkness. 



Before leaving their village, they have arranged that the 
victim shall be set on a track that leads into the undergrowth, 
for traditionally the capture and sacrifice must take place in 
secret and in darkness. 

The Leopard Men lie concealed on each side of the track 
until a favourable moment arrives. The victim — a man, a 
woman, or, more probably, a girl or a boy — approaches. The 
track Hes among thick undergrowth, beneath heavy trees. 
Creepers hang down from the trees and intertwine at head- 
height. The scrub to left and right of the track is as impene- 
trable as a wall. The night is thick, the air heavy with the 
menace of jungle life. 

The victim is allowed to pass the first of the Leopard Men, 
those who have joined in the expedition, perhaps from other 
villages. She — for it is usually a girl — perhaps slows down her 
walk a little, for the track she is following is crooked and 
tortuous, difficult even for her accustomed feet to follow. But 
in the darkness, even her slightest, hesitant movements can be 
seen by the men lying in wait till the moment arrives which they 
judge to be the right one. 

At last it is the moment. The silence of the sleeping jimgle is 
broken by a deep-throated growl. The intended victim pauses 
in her tracks. And at that moment the Yongolado springs 
from his hiding-place close alongside. He leaps on to the back 
of his victim and in one swift movement tears open her throat. 
This is the signal for the other Leopard Men to close in, and 
between them they carry their victim further into the bush or 
forest. As they do so, one of their number, especially appointed 
for the purpose, and shod with pieces of wood carved to repre- 
sent the paw-and-claw-marks of a real leopard, sets to work to 
make as many leopard tracks as possible, and all forming a 
trail running into the trees in a different direction from that 
taken by the main party. 

When the Yongolado has reached an agreed spot, in a clear- 
ing among the trees and bush, he throws the body to the ground. 
The lower part of the belly is cut across with a sharp-bladed 
knife, and the cut is continued up each side of the body as far 
as the collar-bone. The flesh is lifted and the entrails carefully 
examined. The liver, heart and intestines are then removed, 
and the head is hacked off. The body is then divided horizon- 


tally at the waist, and lengthwise from the neck to the crutch. 
The four quarters thus produced are further sub-divided, and 
the smaller portions systematically distributed. Each portion 
is quickly wrapped in banana leaves. The face is cut away from 
the head so that the victim cannot be identified by anyone who 
has not already become privy to the secret. 

The fiver is the most important part of the victim to be 
removed from her body. It is this which enables the Leopard 
Men to know whether their next borfimor, or medicine, will be a 
powerful one. If the fiver is as it should be, then the whole of 
the victim is suitable for their purposes. But the gall-bladder, 
too, must be very carefuUy scrutinised; for they believe that if 
the victim has, before her death, been involved in any form of 
witchcraft, this will be revealed by the condition of her gall- 

The ritual of slaughter, and subsequent examination of the 
victim’s corpse, varies among the different sects of Leopard 
Men. In the case of one society, the victim was immediately 
killed, but was forced to sit down on the ground beneath a tree. 
The chief for whom the particular sacrifice had been planned, 
as representative of his people whose welfare needed this addi- 
tional stimulus, then came forward and sat astride the victim’s 
shoulders. The others then came forward, and as many as 
could do so laid a hand either on the chief or on the victim, 
and those who could not do so laid a hand on each other, so 
that all were making a chain of contact. The Yongolado then 
prayed that good medicine should come of the sacrifice, and 
then came forward and, in the customary manner, tore out the 
victim’s throat. 

Next, the belly was opened, in the usual manner, a bowl 
being placed beneath it to catch the spilled blood. An assistant 
thrust his hand deep into the belly and quickly tore out the 
fiver and intestines. Another then thrust in his hand and tore 
away some fat. When the blood had ceased to flow, and the 
bowl was full, the intestines, fiver, fat and blood were taken 
away to a hut. The victim herself, who might still be partly 
alive in spite of the loss of blood and the agony she had gone 
through, was then carried to a platform outside the chief’s hut, 
and left there tethered to a post. 

The following morning the body was taken back into a secret 


part of the forest, and cut to pieces. The breast was carefully 
cut away, and some of the ribs removed. This was the chief’s 
portion, and one of his wives would be in attendance to collect 
the portion and take it away, to be cooked for him. The legs 
were then cut off, opened, and the bones extracted. The head 
was cut off, skinned and all its flesh removed. The leg and 
thigh bones and the skull were then buried under a palm-tree. 
The remainder of the body was then cut into small portions, 
and in due course, at the bidding of the chief, the people came 
out to partake of the feast. At his arrival, having had his own 
meal, he would be presented with the hands and the feet of the 
victim, which were his also if he chose to exercise his right. By 
tradition, however, he would hand these special delicacies to 
minor chieftains in his tribe, or others to whom he wished to 
show some particular mark of favour. 

There followed a curious piece of ritual which seems to have 
been peculiar to some parts of Sierra Leone. When the feast 
was over, and everyone had eaten his portion, banana leaves 
and stalks were cut and an effigy of the late victim was con- 
structed of them. The effigy was fastened to a pole and cere- 
monially despatched to the village by which the victim had 
been provided. A small portion of the victim’s body was, by 
a piece of cruel irony, given to the father or mother of the victim, 
who was traditionally present at the ceremony and had of 
course connived at the sacrifice. A piece of the skin of the 
victim’s forehead was always preserved to be laid over the 
borfimor, and a piece of the fat of the kidney was set aside to be 
rubbed on it. 

Amid such a welter of ritual it is not easy to decide which in 
fact is the true motive for the killing and eating of a victim. 
Those who condemn cannibalism outright as a disgusting and 
inexcusable practice insist that among the tribesmen of Sierra 
Leone such slaughter served one purpose only: that of glutting 
a savage appetite for human flesh. But surely, with a ritual so 
elaborate, even if so fierce and merciless in its detail, there must 
be more behind it than a mere lust for flesh? 

Questioned, tribesmen have declared emphatically that then- 
reason for killing and devouring human beings is to create a 
powerful medicine, the borfimor which is so jealously guarded, 
so secretly used. Possession of a powerful borfimor, they 


claimed, gave them supremacy over other men — particularly 
over the unwanted white man, who had so many powers that 
they themselves did not possess. “ White men,” one member of 
a Leopard Society said when questioned, “have more power 
than black men. But by this eating of human flesh we obtain 
some power which the white man does not possess. Also, it is 
a power that prevents the white man from knowing everything 
that we do.” In that statement there is probably more truth 
than the speaker himself appreciated. 



Just AS the Amazon Basin drains an enormous area of Central 
South America, on the Equator, so in Africa the River Congo, 
3,000 miles in length, drains a similar enormous area in the 
heart of Equatorial Africa — an area of something like a million 
square miles. It sweeps in a great half-circle from its source 
among the mountains south of the Equator, north-westwards 
across it, and then south-westwards to the Atlantic. The area 
through which it, and its innumerable tributaries, flow is 
known as the Congo Basin — the Belgian Congo; a fertile, 
tropical region producing not only palm-oil, cotton and cocoa, 
but copper, tin, gold and — what is worth vastly more than gold 
today — radium. This is the dark region first explored by 
David Livingstone, and by the man who went out in search of 
him and greeted him in the world-famous phrase, H. M. 

Today, of course, it is a country largely opened up and made 
accessible. Railways and good roads give access to its inner- 
most recesses; it has its own airport; the Belgian Congo has 
become, in a few short decades, part of the international 
industrial scene. It is not necessary, however, to turn many 
pages back to find a very different scene. 

James Dennis, in a survey of what in his day was known about 
the incidence of cannibalism, refers particularly to the Belgian 
Congo: “In the central part of Afiica, from the east coast to 
the west, especially up and down the many tributaries of the 
Congo, cannibalism is still practised with every accompaniment 
of atrocious cruelty,” he wrote at the turn of the century, basing 
his observations on reports from travellers, missionaries, and 
the experiences of Sidney Langford Hinde, a former captain in 
the Congo Free State Force, whose book was published in 1897. 

Hinde was involved in the war between the Zanzibar Arabs, 
who were seeking to exploit the natives and the native resources 
of the Congo Basin for their own purposes, and the Belgians 



who were determined to make the region one of value to 
Western Europe. For his services he was made a Chevaher de 
rOrdre Royal du Lion. 

Nearly all the tribes in the Congo Basin (he wrote) either are, or 
have been, cannibals ; and among some of them the practice is on 
the increase. Races who until lately do not seem to have been 
cannibals, though situated in a country surrounded by cannibal 
races, have, from increased intercourse with their neighbours, 
learned to eat human flesh. 

Soon after the Station of Equator was established, the residents 
discovered that a wholesale human traffic was being carried on by 
the natives of the district between this station and Lake M’Zumba. 
The captains of the steamers have often assured me that whenever 
they try to buy goats from the natives, slaves are demanded in 
exchange; the natives often come aboard with tusks of ivory with 
the intention of buying a slave, complaining that meat is now scarce in 
their neighbourhood. 

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that they prefer 
human flesh to any other. During all the time I lived among 
cannibal races I never came across a single case of their eating any 
kind of flesh raw; they invariably either boil, roast or smoke it. 
This custom of smoking flesh to make it keep would have been 
very useful to us, as we were often without meat for long periods. 
We could, however, never buy smoked meat in the markets, it 
being impossible to be sure that it was not human flesh. 

The preference of different tribes for various parts of the human 
body is interesting. Some cut long steaks from the flesh of the 
thighs, legs or arms ; others prefer the hands and feet ; and though 
the great majority do not eat the head, I have come across more 
than one tribe which prefers this to any other part. Almost all 
use some part of the intestines on account of the fat they contain. 

A young Basongo chief came to our Commandant while at 
dinner in his tent and asked for the loan of his knife, which, with- 
out thinking, the Commandant gave him. He immediately dis- 
appeared behind the tent and cut the throat of a little slave-girl 
belonging to him, and was in the act of cooking her when one of 
our soldiers saw him. This cannibal was immediately put in 
irons, but almost immediately after his liberation he was brought 
in by some of our soldiers who said he was eating children in and 
about our cantonment. He had a bag slung round his neck which, 
on examining it, we found contained an arm and a leg of a young 

A man with his eyes open has no difficulty in knowing, from the 
horrible remains he is obliged to pass on his way, what people 
have preceded him, on the road or batdefield; — with this differ- 
ence : that on a batdefield he will find those parts left to the jackals 


which the human wolves have not found to their taste ; whereas on 
the road, by the smouldering camp fires, are the whitening bones, 
cracked and broken, which form the relics of these disgusting 
banquets. What struck me most, during my expeditions through 
the country, weis the number of partially cut-up bodies I found. 
Some of them were minus the hands and feet, and some with 
steaks cut from the thighs or elsewhere ; others had the entrails or 
head removed. Neither old nor young, women or children, are 
exempt from serving as food for their conquerors or neighbours. 

Hinde’s report is laconic: the writing of a man accustomed 
to the brutalities of war. He accepted what he saw, and makes 
few comments that bear any signs of deep feeling. In general 
his observations seem to be borne out by those of others who 
have written about these tribes, but he appears to be alone 
in his beUef that the Congo cannibals never eat their human 
flesh uncooked. 

Very different is the writing of missionaries like Grenfell, 
Bentley, Forfeitt, Lewis, Philhps and their colleagues of the 
Baptist Missionary Society who were working in the Congo 
Basin in the latter years of the nineteenth century and early 
years of the present century. The Rev. W. Holman Bentley — 
who incidentally received the same award as Hinde from the 
Belgian authorities — spent twenty years in the region, and the 
two volumes of his Pioneering on the Congo paint a detailed and 
often deeply moving picture of their experiences. 

The whole wide country (he wrote) seemed to be given up to 
cannibalism, from the Mobangi (a major tributary of the Congo) 
to Stanley Falls, for six hundred miles on both sides of the main 
river, and the Mobangi as well. Often did the natives beg Gren- 
fell to seU some of his steamer hands, especially his coast people; 
coming from the shore of the great salt sea, they must be very 
‘sweet’ — salt is spoken of as sweet, in the same way as sugar. 
They offered two or three of their women for one of those coast 
men. They could not understand the objections raised to the 
practice. “You eat fowls and goats, and we eat men; why not? 
What is the difference ? ” The son of Matabwiki, chief of Liboko, 
when asked whether he ever ate human flesh, said: “Ah! I 
wish that I could eat everybody on earth 1 ” Happily his stomach 
and arm were not equal to the carrying out of his fiendish will. 

Fiendish? Yet there is something free and lovable in many of 
these wild men; splendid possibilities when the grace of God gets 
a hold of them. Bapulula, the brother of that ‘fiend’, worked 
with us for two years — a fine, bright, intelligent fellow; we liked 
him very much. 


Bentley says that, bad as cannibalism was on the Congo, it 
was even worse on the Mobangi. Tribes there kept and fat- 
tened slaves for butchery as we do cattle and poultry. There 
were organised raids along the river and forays into the jungle 
to unsuspecting settlements where the people were overpowered 
and brought away. . . . 

They divided up their human booty and kept them, tied up and 
starving, until they were fortunate enough to catch some more 
and so make up a cargo worth taking to the Mobangi. When 
times were bad, these poor starving wretches might often be seen 
tied up, just kept alive with the minimum of food. A party 
would be made up and two or three canoes would be filled with 
these human cattle. They would paddle down the Lulongo, 
cross the main river when the wind was not blowing, make up the 
Mobangi and sell their freight in some of the towns for ivory. 
The purchasers would then feed up their starvelings imtil they 
were fat enough for the market, then butcher them and sell the 
meat in small joints. What was left over, if there was much on 
the market, would be dried on a rack over the fire, or spitted, and 
the end of the spit stuck in the ground by a slow fire, until it could 
be kept for weeks and sold at leisure. 

Sometimes a section of the people would club together to buy a 
large piece of the body wholesale, to be retailed out again; or a 
fan^y man would buy a whole leg to divide up between his wives, 
children and slaves. Dear little bright-eyed boys and girls grew 
up accustomed to these scenes from day to day. They ate their 
own morsels from time to time, in the haphazard way that they 
have, and carried the rest of their portion in their hands, on a 
skewer or in a leaf, lest anyone shoiild steal and eat it. To this 
awful depth have these children of the Heavenly Father fallen! 
This is no worked-up picture, it is the daily life of thousands of 
people at the present time in Darkest Africa. 

Bentley says that he discussed the question of eating human 
flesh with a fellow missionary who had had experience in other 
parts of the world. This missionary had asked a converted 
savage just why he had always preferred human flesh to that of 
animals. The answer — as so often in such cases — ^was simple, 
and difficult to challenge : “You white men consider pork to be 
the tastiest of meat, but pork is not to be compared with human 
flesh.” In other words, human flesh was preferable; and why 
should one not eat what one preferred? “ Why,” asked another 
tribesman, when accused of eating human flesh, “do you 
interfere with us? We do not trouble you when you kill your 


goats. We buy our meat, and kill it; it is not your affair.” 
One old man with whom Bendey talked told him that he had 
recently lolled and eaten one of his seven wives. She had been 
guilty of some breach of tribal and family law, and he and his 
other wives had made a feast of her — as an example and a 
warning ! 

Bendey quotes a letter from a colleague of his named 
Stapleton, who, with another missionary, had established a 
mission station at Mosembe, in the heart of the territory of the 
dreaded Bangala tribes, whose reputation even among other 
tribes in the Congo Basin was such that they were spoken of 
with bated breath. There had been an inter-tribal fight, 
ending in victory: 

At about twelve o’clock a long procession of men marched through 
the station laden with spoil. Fifty men carried as many goats, 
most of which had been speared; others, less fortunate, brought 
away fish-nets, stools and plantain. 

Whilst this was proceeding, as a kind of introduction to what 
would follow, two men passed, one carrying a human neck poised 
aloft upon a spear, the other an arm; both had been lopped off an 
unfortunate man who had been killed and left on the field. Later 
on, we were horrified by a more ghastly sight. A party of warriors 
returned who had joined somewhat late in the chase. They 
marched in single file past our house. In the middle of the line 
three men bore the remaining parts of the mutilated body. One 
carried the still bleeding trunk; he had slung the other arm 
through a large wound in the abdomen and, suspended on this, 
the ghastly burden swung at his side. Two others shouldered the 

It was a sickening sight; the more so as we were assured that 
these would be cooked and eaten in the evening. Needless to say, 
we did not visit the scene of the feast. A few of the young men 
went down for a share, but were too late : the flesh had been eaten. 
However, Aey were invited to partake of the vegetables still 
remaining in the water in which the corpse had been boiled. 
Both Weeks and myself found it difficult to eat our evening meal, 
and you will hardly wonder that in our dreams for a few nights, 
men carrying mutilated lunbs were the chief figures, and that 
these limbs were sometimes our own. 

Two days later, a lad walked into the station carrying in a plan- 
tain-leaf some of the flesh that had been roasted, and one of our 
workmen eagerly joined him in disposing of the dainty morsels. 
This cooked flesh we saw. The day following the attack our 
people visited the creek towns which had been left at their mercy. 
A sick woman had been left in one of the huts. She was dis- 


covered, and some of the doughty warriors recounted with much 
glee and mock imitation of her agonies how they had burned her 
to death in her hut. To burn alive a poor, sick, deserted woman 
is regarded as a huge joke. Yet usually these Bangalas are merry, 
manly fellows, very friendly in conversation and quite demonstra- 
tive in their affection ; but when the lust of blood is upon them, 
deeds which fill us with horror are the merest incidents of the 
fight, to them. 

Of these Bangalas, the missionary Grenfell reported that the 
women of the tribe “ cram dogs with food as we do chickens, in 
order that they may be plump for killing and eating. Some 
Bangala at Lukungu market bought a bit of meat. A dog ate 
it. They wanted their own bit of meat, so seized and opened 
the dog to get it — thus succeeding in getting what they also 
prized: the carcass of the dog.” 

The Bambala, these missionaries found, regarded as special 
delicacies human flesh that had been buried for some days; 
also a large, thick, white beetle grub found in palm-trees (prob- 
ably the grub referred to in the Introduction), and human 
blood boiled with manioc flour. The women of the tribe were 
forbidden to touch human flesh, but had found many ways of 
circumventing the tabu, and were particularly addicted to 
human flesh, extracted from graves and in an advanced state of 

A later traveller in the Congo, an artist and sculptor named 
Herbert Ward, knew the region in the early years of this 
century. He admits: “No high motive took me to Africa. I 
went there simply and solely to gratify my love of adventure.” 
It is obvious from his book that he had not only courage but a 
remarkable gift for getting on to human terms with natives who 
were still cannibals. He found, in addition to the cruelty and 
degradation, abundant good-humour — a quality that subse- 
quent travellers and settlers have frequently mentioned. 

The impression I received from personal intercourse (he writes) 
was that the cannibals of the forest were infinitely more sym- 
pathetic than the people of the open country, where the trading 
instinct is inborn. The cannibals are not schemers, and they are 
not mean. In direct opposition to all natural conjectures, they 
are among the best types of men. 

“Do you people eat human bodies?” said I one day, ujmn 
entering a native village, and pointed to a quantity of meat, 
spitted upon long skewers, being smoke-dried over numerous 


smouldering fires. “lo; yo te?” was the instant reply — “Yes; 
don’t you? ” And a few minutes later the chieftain of the village 
came forward with an offering which consisted of large and 
generous portions of flesh, only too obviously of human origin. 
He seemed genuinely disappointed when I refused. 

Once in the great forest, when camping for the night with a 
party of Arab raiders and their native followers, we were com- 
pelled to change the position of our tent owing to the offensive 
smell of human flesh, which was being cooked on all sides of us. 
A native chief stated to me that the time occupied in devouring a 
human body varied according to whether the latter happened to 
be one of his enemies, when he would eat the body himself, or 
merely a slave, who would be divided between his followers. 

Ward describes the slave-markets he has seen on the banks of 
various of the Congo tributaries, where there was an organised 
traffic in human beings destined for slavery and eventual 
butchery for human consumption; they were normally bartered 
in exchange for ivory. . . . 

A visit to one of these slave-depots revealed a condition of savagery 
and suffering beyond all ordinary powers of description. It was 
no imcommon experience to witness upwards of a hundred cap- 
tives, of both sexes and all ages, including infants in their mothers’ 
arms, lying in groups; masses of utterly forlorn humanity, with 
eyes downcast in a stony stare, with bodies attenuated by starva- 
tion, and with skin of that dull grey hue which among coloured 
races is always indicative of physical disorder. The captives were 
exposed for sale with the sinister fate in view of being killed and 

Proportionately, a greater number of men than women fall 
victims to cannibalism, the reason being that women who are still 
young are esteemed as being of greater value by reason of their 
utility in growing and cooking food. 

Probably the most inhuman practice of all is to be met vrith 
among the tribes who deliberately hawk the victim piecemeal 
whilst still aHve. Incredible as it may appear, captives are led 
from place to place in order that individu^s may have the oppor- 
tunity of indicating, by external marks on the body, the portion 
they desire to acquire. The distinguishing marks are generally 
made by means of coloured clay or strips of grass tied in a 
peculiar fashion. The astounding stoicism of the victims, who 
thus witness the bargaining for their limbs piecemeal, is only 
equalled by the callousness vrith which they walk forward to meet 
their fate. 

There is a pronounced absence of ceremonial in association 
with the cannibalistic practices reported by such eye-witnesses 


as these. Indeed, apart from some grisly burial-rites described 
by some of the missionaries such as Grenfell, Bentley and 
others who were serving in the Baptist Mission fields of the 
Congo Basin about the turn of the century, when wives, rela- 
tives and slaves of chiefs who had died were slaughtered 
on his grave and then cooked and eaten by the remainder of 
the tribesmen, there is hardly any evidence whatsoever that 
cannibalism was anything other than a lust for the taste of 
human flesh. 

Writing many years later than anyone who has been referred 
to in this chapter, the traveller Lewis Cotlow, F.R.G.S., has 
something to say of the Congo as he knew it in recent years. 
In his very readable book, ^anzabuku, he describes how he has 
just left Fort Portal, in Uganda, and is heading for the eastern 
border of the Belgian Congo, skirting as he does so the southern 
slopes of Mount Ruwenzori : 

In half an hour I thought I had my reward, for we encountered 
along the road a group of Bantu Negroes, much smaller than 
average height. “Pygmies?” I asked Cezaire, hopefully. 
“Bamba,” he answered. “Part Pygmy, part Bantu. Their 
teeth are filed to sharp points, supposedly from the time not so 
very long ago when they were cannibals.” 

Cezaire told me that there were still cases of cannibalism in 
Central Africa, most of it on bodies that had just been buried. 
The authorities in some localities still had trouble over it occasion- 
ally, and there were tales of isolated tribes who practised it 
regularly, as they always had. . . . 

Cotlow had noticed the filed teeth — the universal sign of 
cannibalistic tradition — but he did not, himself, witness any 
actual cannibalism. He mentions however the distinguished 
German ethnologist, Schweinfurth, who had lived with the 
Mangbetu before that tribe came under the influence of the 
Europeans generally. The German had wanted to take home 
skulls and human bones for research, and therefore offered gifts 
to the tribesmen if they would let him have some. “ In a very 
short time,” says Cotlow, “he had accumulated a great pile, 
although he was disappointed to find that most of the skulls had 
been shattered — so that the Mangbetu gourmands could get at 
the brains, a great delicacy. Still, he came home with forty 
excellent skulls, out of the two hundred he collected. Another 
German reported of the Mangbetu that they dehghted in meals 


of human flesh. He had been unable, he said, to find a grave 
anywhere — a fact which held considerable significance.” 

Cotlow remarks that the authorities, in an attempt to explain 
why it should be that some tribes are cannibals while others are 
not, suggested that the Mangbetu “ate human flesh because 
they raised no cattle.” The Zulu and the Masai were beUeyed 
never to have indulged in cannibahsm — and they were cattle- 
breeders. On the other hand, the Mangbetu did raise poultry, 
so any possible craving for meat could be satisfied that way, if 
their cannibalistic tendencies were to be attributed solely to a 
desire for meat as food. 

There is a tail-piece to Cotlow’s observations ; 

No doubt all eating of human flesh among the Mangbetu had 
ceased by this time, but on my first trip I received some vague and 
confusing answers to my questions about it. One honest ex- 
plorer told me that, tired of roundabout investigation, he asked an 
old Mangbetu, “Do you eat human meat?” The ancient one 
was silentiy thoughtful for a moment, and then said, looking down 
his nose: “It is very hard to stop old habits.” 

Cotlow’s book was published in 1957. The three trips he 
made among the tribes of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in 
Equatorial Afiica took place in the years 1937, 1946, and 1954. 
Even though the record he is quoting dates back to the earliest 
of his expeditions, that is a period of only twenty years: a 
flicker of a page or two in the long, and still largely untold, 
story of this part of a Dark Continent. 

Fort Portal, the point from which Cotlow began the expedi- 
tion referred to, is just within the confines of the British Pro- 
tectorate of Uganda, a province bounded on the north by 
the Sudan, on the east by Kenya, and on the south by 
Tanganyika. The Belgian Congo is its big neighbour on the 
west, and about half of Lake Victoria lies within its boundaries. 

Certainly the Bagesu, and probably other tribes in the region 
that have been less exhaustively studied, practised the custom of 
disposing of their dead by devouring them; a custom which 
the German mentioned by Cotlow will have recognised as 
explaining why he never found any graves among the tribes he 
had met with. 

John Roscoe, writing between the two World Wars, states 
clearly that the custom of eating the bodies of the dead was 



common to all the clans of the numerous Bagesu tribe, and 
that the practice took place during the period allocated to 

For various reasons, the custom was kept secret, and even members 
of the tribe were not permitted to look on during the ceremony, 
which was performed by night. Yet the custom was known to all, 
and each family was aware of what was going on, though they 
never sought to watch their neighbours’ doings. 

When a man died, the body was kept in the house until the 
evening, when the relatives who had been summoned gathered 
for the mourning. In some exceptional instances it took one or 
two days to bring the relatives together, but as a rule all was 
ready by the evening of the day of death, and at sunset the body was 
carried to the nearest waste ground and deposited there. At the 
same time, men of the clan hid themselves in different places 
round about and, as darkness deepened, they blew upon gourd 
horns, making a noise like the cry of jackals. 

The villagers said that the jackals were coming to eat the dead, 
and the young people were warned not to go outside. When 
darkness set in, and it was felt to be safe to work without intrusion 
from inquisitive onlookers, a number of elderly women relatives 
of the dead man went to the place where the body lay, and cut it 
up, carrying back the pieces they wanted to the house of mourn- 
ing, and leaving the remains to be devoured by wild animals. 

For the next three, or sometimes four, days the relatives 
mourned in the house in which the death had taken place, and 
there they cooked and ate the flesh of the dead, destroying the 
bones by fire and leaving nothing. There was no ‘purification’, 
or ‘shaving’ when this mourning was ended; sometimes an ox 
was killed for a feast when the heir was announced, but as a rule 
the people simply returned to their ordinary life without any 
ceremony. The widows, however, burned their grass girdles, and 
either went about naked or wore the small aprons used by im- 
married girls. 

Tribesmen offered by way of explanation of their custom of 
devouring their dead this odd belief: If, they said, they were to 
allow a body to be buried in the ground and, in the natural 
course of things, to decay, the ghost of the dead person would 
haunt the district near his grave and, by way of revenge for 
being allowed to decay, cause illness to the children. 

Roscoe writes about one or two other tribes of Uganda. Of 
the Bakongo, a small tribe whose stamping-ground was on the 
eastern slopes of Mt Ruwenzori, he says that though there is 
evidence that they were once cannibals, they were now hunters 


of four-legged meat-on- the-hoof: they would kill and eat any- 
thing from rats to leopards. They maintained that they buried 
their dead in the proper way, but it was suspected that in fact 
the ancient custom of devouring them still persisted among the 
more remote clans. 

On the opposite slopes of Mt Ruwenzori lived the Bambwas. 
These tribesmen, Roscoe says, as recently as the first years of 
this century were eating human flesh. He declares that he 
actually saw this going on, and the practice of filing the teeth to 
a sharp point was universal amongst them. 

Among the tribes which were no longer cannibal, he says, he 
noticed some curious customs connected with death and 

When a man died, his legs were bent up and his hands were 
crossed in front of him with the arms straight. This was some- 
times done before death, and the limbs tied lest they should be 
stretched out and become rigid in that p)osition. All the orna- 
ments were removed from the dead man. The grave was dug in 
the hut, the body placed in it on an old sleeping mat, in a sitting 
posture, and the grave was then filled in with earth. A woman, 
on the other hand, was buried outside the hut, lying on her back, 
with her legs bent up and her hands on either side of her head. 

The brother of a dead man took possession of his widows at 
once, but one widow was left in the hut for a month to guard the 
grave, and the mourners also remained there for a month, during 
which they carried out a daily programme of mourning and wail- 
ing. At the end of the month, a goat was killed and its head 
placed on the grave. The mourners ate the meat, then washed, 
shaved their heads and cut their nails. The hair and naU-parings 
of each person were tied in a bundle and fastened to the roof of the 
hut. They then left the hut; the posts were cut and the hut fell 
down on the grave. This ended the mourning, and no further 
notice was taken of the place; though the ghost was supposed to 
continue to hover near it. 

This alternative method of burial, by digging the grave inside 
the hut and then causing the hut to collapse over the grave, may 
of course be the explanation why that other traveller failed 
during his travels in the region to find any graves at all, and 
therefore made the logical deduction that the custom of the 
tribes in the locality was to devour the bodies of their dead. 

Another writer, this time in The Saturday Review, comments on 
the fact that, though cannibalism no doubt existed even till 
comparatively recent times in East Africa, it was accompanied 


by less brutality than the cannibalism noted in Equatorial 
Africa and particidarly in the West. “ An element of domestic 
economy seems to pervade cannibal customs in the east,” he 
wrote. “ The flesh of the old, the infirm, and the useless is 
dried and preserved, with a sort of reverence, in the family 
larder. It is offered to guests as a special comphment, to 
refuse which would be a deadly insult, while its acceptance 
secures friendship. Many travellers in East Africa have eaten 
thus sacramentally of the ancestors of some dark-skinned 

At the time of the taking over of the Sudan Zandeland by the 
Anglo-Egyptian Administration in the early part of this century 
there was certainly a good deal of cannibalism in the region. 
Indeed, Bzisil Spence makes the point that the word ‘Zande’ 
and the word ‘cannibal’ are interchangeable. “The very 
origin of the Azande,” he says, “makes them suspect; for they 
came from the western part of Africa, though at present the 
majority of them live in the Belgian Congo and French 
Equatorial Africa.” He goes on to say: 

Innumerable acts of cannibalism have been reported from time to 
time by both Belgians and French, the most recent of which I have 
actual knowledge being the waylaying by a party of Azande of a 
Belgian officer proceeding on leave from the Lado Enclave (now 
Western Mongolia) ; they tore him limb from limb and ate him 
raw. This occurred twelve years ago. . . . 

Spence is writing in 1920, so that this episode occurred well 
into the present century. He goes on to say that the Azande of 
the Bahr el Ghazal are an offshoot of the other Azande — the 
cream, he says, of the fighters. They had been seen to drive a 
lion off its somewhat decayed ‘kill’ in order to devour it them- 
selves, and to tear up and eat a putrid, semi-liquefied elephant; 
certainly they devoured the dead on a field of battle, rather than 
leave the corpses to rot or be eaten by animals. The Azande, 
he says, invariably admit their cannibalistic practices — even 
those who allege that they have recently been converted finm 

An interesting piece of corroborative evidence of this is 
quoted by another authority, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, writing 
in a very recent issue of the magazine Africa. He quotes the 
statement of a Zande in whose integrity he has absolute 



confidence: a statement which he took down verbatim from 
the man, and says he has every reason to believe in its every 
detail. . . . 

In the past, the Azande were just like animals of the bush (says 
this man, Kuagbiaru by name). They killed people and ate their 
fellows just like lions, leopards and wild dogs. In the past, when 
a man died a Zande sharpened his knife, moved over to the corpse 
and cut off the flesh, about two basketfuls of it, and went with the 
flesh to his home. He took a very big p)ot and placed the human 
flesh in it till it was filled, and then put it on the fire. It stewed 
for a long time, then he took it off the fire to put it on a drying 
platform over a fire to dry. He took it from there and cooked it 
in his own pot, by himself. That p)ot he used for eating human 
flesh another man would not touch in any circumstances; it was 
kept apart by itself always ; only he himself touched it. 

His fire place was by itself on one side. When he was of a mind 
to eat his man, he lit his fire by himself at the base of some tree 
and he took his dried human flesh, some three or four pieces of it, 
and put them on the fire in a pot. He closed the mouth of the pot 
with another Httle pot. It went on stewing till it was cooked. 
Meanwhile his wife ground sesame to go with it. He did all the 
cooking of the meat himself. His wife cooked porridge and gave 
it to him by the side of his flesh. He ate his porridge and flesh till 
he was satisfied, and then covered over the mouth of the pot and 
put it at the side of the granary till he was hungry again. 

A Zande ate flesh because it made good meat. A Zande used 
tosaythus: “What is a stranger to me?” Since it was a stranger, 
he ate him up entirely because he was meat. The man whose 
forbears ate men, also ate men himself, when he grew up. Some 
Azande feared other Azande who ate human flesh, and thought of 
them as lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs. . . . 

We have here almost the sole evidence that there existed, 
among these people of the Congo Basin and its outlying dis- 
tricts, a hint of ritual, ritual of course associated with deep- 
hidden and hardly-realised fear. But it is one small piece of 
such evidence amid a welter of more blatant examples of sheer 
lust for the taste of human flesh. 

A much more recent traveller in Central Afnca than any of 
those quoted hitherto, H. C. Engert, is convinced fi'om his 
own experiences that cannibalism still exists as a regular prac- 
tice. In a book written as recently as 1956, and describing a 
journey that he has made in East, Central and West Africa 
since the Second World War, he mentions meeting a Danish 
vet. who told him that when he and his porters were in the 


northern part of the Congo they ran short of food. The 
villagers whom they encountered were short of food too, and 
had none to offer. But they came at length to a village where 
a tasty stew was offered to his party. “The flesh,” the Dane 
told him, “was soft and tender.” Having enjoyed their meal, 
they asked where the meat had come from. “ A woman belong 
village,” was the answer. 

Engert, who is evidently an intelligent and highly observant 
traveller, and incidentally a brilliant photographer, adds : 

Cannibalism is far from being dead in Africa, for it is almost im- 
possible to control the natives in the bush. I remember one 
District OflScer standing at his door one night, listening to the 
drums, saying to me: “They are chopping someone.” “Why 
don’t you do anything about it?” I asked. “How can I? If I 
try to send my native policeman, he will only pretend that he has 
been; he would be much too frightened to go. We take action 
if we have proof, or if we find bones.” 

I myself (Engert continues) once lived in a cannibal village for a 
time, and found some bones. The natives were worried about 
this, but I am no policeman. They were pleasant enough people. 
It was just an old custom which dies hard. Thousands of natives 
— and I think this is no exaggeration — are still eaten in Africa 
every year, for it is difficult to break old habits. 

Equatorial Africa: stretching along the Equator from the 
French Gaboon by way of the Belgian Congo, Uganda, to 
Kenya — two thousand miles and more; and all the territory 
on the hottest latitude. Is there perhaps a reason here for the 
prevalence of this custom of devouring human flesh? The 
custom was rife also, in the Amazon Basin — which also, it will 
be remembered, lies athwart the Equator; as does the ‘ cannibal’ 
island of Borneo. 

Charles Kingsley’s niece, who was intrepid enough to explore 
the territory of the Fangs of Gaboon in the last years of the 
nineteenth century, travelling more than two hundred miles up 
one of its most difficult rivers, encountered cannibalism almost 
universally throughout this westernmost region of Equatorial 
Africa. She found the natives determined to kill and devour 
some of her attendants, who had been collected from a neigh- 
bouring tribe with whom there was a feud. She noticed the 
filed teeth, but as a niece of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, was 
perhaps too serious-minded to comment on the appropriateness 


of the name home by the tribe with these filed teeth : the Fangs. 
She reported that nowhere did she come across any burial- 
places, and stated emphatically that the Fangs were a tribe that 
devoured their dead. She actuaUy saw in some of their huts 
firagments of human bodies being stored in just the same way as 
civilised peoples keep foodstuffs in their larders. Her state- 
ments, on which sceptics might be inclined to cast doubt, sug- 
gesting that this was a panic observation by an impressionable 
woman, are borne out by the Rev. W. S. Bannerman, an 
American Presbyterian missionary of the Gaboon Mission. 

At the eastern end of Equatorial Africa lies Kenya, associated 
all too much in our minds, these days, with the horrors of Mau 
Mau. This aspect of cannibalism and sacrifice will, however, 
be dealt with later, in a different context. 

Most anthropologists and travellers generally are agreed that 
the practice of eating human flesh is entirely absent in the north 
and the south of the continent of Africa. E. O. James, how- 
ever, quoting from some reference in The Golden Bough, says 
that “ among the Bechuans (a tribe inhabiting territory south of 
Northern Rhodesia) a short, stout man was slain in the midst 
of the wheat to serve as ‘ seed ’. After his blood had coagulated 
in the sun, it was burned along with the frontal bone and the 
brain; the ashes were then scattered over the ground to 
fertilise it.” This, of course, is human sacrifice: the sort of 
ritual that has been noted among the Aztecs and elsewhere. 
James says that it took place also in West Africa, where “in 
March, a man and a woman were killed with spades and hoes 
in order that their bodies might be buried in the newly-tilled 
field.” But of the Bechuans’ ceremony he has one more, 
terse, remark to make : “ The rest of the body was eaten. ” 



Borneo, the third largest island in the world, lies between 
the Malay Peninsula and New Guinea. To the north are the 
scattered Phihppines, and immediately to the south stretches 
the long curving island of Java, with its smaller attendant 
islands miming eastwards to Timor, just short of North 
Australia itself. Borneo lies almost exactly astride the Equator. 
Its best-known inhabitants are the tribes known as the Dyaks; 
and the Dyaks have had a reputation as merciless head-hunters 
since first men began trading among the innumerable islands of 
the Indian Archipelago. Head-hunting and cannibalism, 
more often than not, are dual practices. 

The custom of head-hunting is probably as ancient as the Dyaks’ 
existence as a nation (wrote Sir Hugh Low, in a memoir on Sara- 
wak, the northern part of Borneo). Possibly their original 
motive was akin to that of a non-Dyak Borneo tribe, who held 
that human sacrifice was the most acceptable form of sacrifice to 
the tribal gods. Some tribes believe that the persons whose heads 
they take will become their slaves in the next world. 

Feasts are held with specific objects in view: to make the rice 
crop flourish, to cause the forests to abound with wild animals, to 
enable their dogs and snares to be successful in securing game, to 
have the streams and rivers swarm with fish, to give health and 
activity to the people themselves, and to ensure fertility among 
their women. All these blessings are, it is believed, most effici- 
ently and certainly secured for the tribe by the capture of a victim 
and the feasting upon his head. 

Another observer, this time an official of the Sarawak 
Government Service, supplies details connected with the 
manner in which these men actually severed their victims’ 
heads. Such detail is interesting in that it shows that, even 
among the members of a large tribe like that of the Dyaks, 
there may be subtle and even significant variations of practice: 

The way of cutting off their heads varies with the different tribes. 
The Sea Dyaks, for instance, sever the head at the neck, and so 



preserve both jaws. Among the Hill Dyaks, on the other hand, 
heads are very carelessly taken, being split open or slashed across 
with parangs. Often it may be seen that quite large portions have 
been hacked out of the heads. Others again cut off the head so 
close to the trunk that great skill and a practised hand must have 
been used. 

Many tribesmen habitually carry about their person a little 
basket destined to receive a head. It is always very neatly plaited, 
ornamented with a variety of shells, and hung about with human 
hair. But only those Dyaks who have lawfully obtained such a 
head, as opposed to those who steal, or ‘ find ’ them, may include 
this human hair ornamentation to their macabre baskets. 

The Sea Dyaks scoop out the brains by way of the nostrils, and 
then hang up the head to dry in the smoke of a wood fire — usually 
the fire which is maintained anyway for the cooking of all the food 
for the members of the tribe. Every now and then they will 
leave their pre-occupations, saunter across to the fire, and tear or 
slash off a piece of the skin and burnt flesh of the cheek or chin, 
and eat it. They believe that by so doing they will add immedi- 
ately to their store of courage and fearlessness. 

The brains are not always extracted by way of the nostrils, how- 
ever. Sometimes a piece of bamboo, carved into the semblance 
of a spoon, is thrust into the lowest part of the skull, and the brains 
gradually extracted by the occipital orifice. . . . 

It is not usual, in these olBcial reports, particularly when 
they emanate from official, or even semi-official, sources, for 
the writer to insert the sort of comment that is found as a tail- 
piece to this description by a Sarawak Government employee: 

The brains are thus extracted from the skull much as one extracts 
stuffing from the Xmas turkey from an orifice that seems to have 
been designed to make the procedure as difficult as possible ! 

The writer has already referred to the matter of the use of 
human hair as ornamentation for these baskets which the 
Dyaks carried with them to contain their skull trophies. He 
adds a curious detail or two about these skulls, to which it is 
not easy to find exact parallels anywhere else among head- 
hunting and cannibalistic tribes. 

They cut off the hair from the skulls to use for ornamentation also 
to their sword-hilts and sheaths. But in the meantime someone 
must always keep an alert eye on the progress of the cooking of the 
skulls. For instance, the lower jaw of a skull must never be p»er- 
mitted to sag or drop. If it shows signs of this, it must be care- 
fully bound up. If teeth fall out, or have perhaps already been 
knocked out in battle or afterwards, the cavities must at once be 


filled with imitation teeth, made of wood. The eye-sockets, too, 
must be plugged; and the nostrils through which the brains have 
been extracted. The tongue must always have been cut off at 
the root. 

Another Government official, this time an Assistant Resident 
in Upper Sarawak, sent in a report in the form of random 
jottings resulting from an extended tour that he made through 
the territory : 

Among Dyak and Milano tribes, in many parts of this country, it 
is the practice still to cut up and consume the raw heart of a warrior 
killed in battle, under the idea that those who partake of the dish 
will in due course increase their courage. Though I personally 
have never met with cannibals in Borneo (he was writing at the 
tail-end of the nineteenth century), I am sure from the careful 
inquiries I have made that the practice of eating human beings 
has not long died out; indeed, I feel fairly confident that the 
practice still exists in obscure and little-known places in the 
remote interior. 

I was assured by a traveller with whom I spoke at some length 
that when, for instance, he visited the Meribun and Jincang 
Dyaks, he found them to be practising cannibalism. These 
particular tribes live not far from the head-waters of the Sadong 
River. At Sungei Meribun, the cannibals had been seen by this 
traveller feasting on the flesh of a human body. Traditionally, 
only the heads of the victims are eaten, but when an individual 
member of their own tribe happens to die, the body is sold, and 
anyone who wishes to do so, not excluding women and even 
children, may take part in the feast. 

In this particular instance the body was that of a comparatively 
young man, and it was noticeable that the most favoured portions 
were the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands. Another 
tribe, this traveller told me, the Jincangs, will devour the whole of 
the body with the exception of the entrails, which are carefully 
avoided by all who take part in the feasting. 

The traveller appears to have been a particularly observant 
individual — and it is reasonable to suppose that to take a keen 
interest in such activities may at times lay the observer open to 
the charge of prying, for which sensitive tribesmen may have 
their own scale of penalties. He observed in particular a tribe 
of Dyaks known as the Janakang, who, he reported. 

Practise certain refinements — if the word can be fairly used in such 
a grisly context — in the matter of eating human flesh. They do 
not, like some other Dyak tribes, eat indiscriminately all parts of 
the body. Rather, they practise a form of epicureanism. First 


in favour among the delicacies comes the human tongue; then 
comes the brain; and then the muscles of the thigh and calf. 
These particular tribesmen, though by no means alone in the 
habit, file their teeth to exceedingly sharp points, to enable them 
to tear at this tough, sinewy flesh. 

This traveller seems to have managed to get on speaking 
terms with these Dyaks — a somewhat hazardous procedure in 
the circumstances. He asked them why they practised 
cannibalism, and the reply came in the form of another ques- 
tion; “If we do not eat of warriors’ flesh,” they asked, “how 
can we ourselves hope to become as fearless as they?” 

Sir James Brooke, the first Rajah of Sarawak, went very 
carefully into the available evidence of cannibalism in the 
coimtry for which he was largely responsible. It is very clear 
that he was not easily persuaded, that he made a practice of 
checking and re-checking evidence, checking the credentials of 
those who sent in reports to him, and personally interviewing 
anyone from whom he thought it might be possible to obtain 
authoritative information. 

Among those from whom he collected information were three 
men whom he refers to as “intelligent Dyaks from the interior”. 
They were persuaded to spend some time at the Residence, 
where they were interrogated carefully, after being assured 
that they would be well treated. “They spoke,” Rajah Brooke 
says, “in the most frank manner to be conceived — as direct and 
unimpeachable evidence as I have ever heard offered, some- 
times when they were together, sometimes by individual apart, 
in conversation with numerous persons. I examined them 
myself,” he adds, “and entertain no doubt of the correctness 
of their statements, as far as their personal knowledge is con- 
cerned. The witnesses themselves stated over and over again, 
with the utmost clearness, how much they had seen, and how 
much they had only heard. There was such perfect good faith, and 
simplicity, in their stories as to carry conviction of their truth.” 

The three “intelligent Dyaks from the interior” were named 
Kusu, Gajah and Rinong, and their stories, recounted at 
different times and over a period of time, with repetitions 
omitted, add up to the following: 

We are of the tribe of Sibciru, which is likewise the name of a 
branch of the Kapuas River. We are two thousand fighting men. 


We have none of ns been up to the interior of the Kapuas, where 
the Kayans live, but they often come down to Santang, where we 
meet them. They are very munerous and very powerful and 
independent. Many of them are reported to be cannibals, and 
we know these reports are true, for we have seen things with our 
own eyes. 

There was a war a few years ago between Malays and Dyaks, 
and the Dyak forces included many Kayans. I, Kusu, saw these 
Kayans run small spits of iron, from eight inches to a foot long, 
into the fleshy parts of dead men’s arms, from the elbow to the 
shoulder, and into the fleshy parts of their legs from above their 
ankles, beneath the calf, to the knee-joint. Then they sliced off 
the flesh through which they had thrust their spits, and put the 
flesh into baskets which they had prepared in readiness. 

The spits which they use are also prepared especially for such 
occasions and are carried in a case beneath the sheaths which hold 
their knives. The Kayans prize heads in exactly the same way as 
other Dyaks prize them. They take also the flesh from all parts 
of the bodies of their victims, leaving only the largest bones. Not 
wishing to share their booty with other warriors after the battle, 
they carried off the portions of flesh, broiled them on hot stones 
and then entered their canoes and had their feast without fear of 
interruption from the others. It was not I, Kusu, and Gajah and 
Rinong alone who witnessed these things, but others also who had 
been in the battle. The flesh, when it was being cooked, smelled 
like hog’s flesh. 

The second Dyak took up the tale from his friend Kusu, 
stressing the fact that that was by no means the only time they 
had witnessed cannibalism. He referred especially to the 
Dyaks of Jangkang, who lived, he said, on the banks of a 
tributary of the Sangow River. These Dyaks had made a 
foray against another tribe, the Ungias, and having taken many 
prisoners and killed many others, they approached the speaker’s 
own settlement: 

They carried with them several baskets of human flesh. They 
cooked and ate this flesh outside the hut where I live, but it had 
been broiled before they arrived. I knew that it was human 
flesh for I saw one of the party turn the hand of a dead man at the 
fire. I could see that he turned it by the fingers. Kusu and 
Rinong and I saw them eat this hand on the bank of the river, 
close beside my hut. We talked to them about what they had 
done, and they laughed and were proud. ■ 

The Jangkang eat anyone who is killed in fighting. They even 
kill their own sick and infirm, if they are near death, and eat them. 
At Santang a party of this tribe was staying, and one of them 


climbed into a mango tree and fell from it and broke his arm. 
Otherwise he was not much hurt. But his companions at once 
slit his throat and ate his whole body. We did not see this, but 
some of our friends at Santang told us about it, and they are 
friends whose word we trust. We have also been told that at 
their feast which they call Makantaun, a man will borrow a fat 
child from his neighbour to make up part of the feast; later he 
will repay his neighbour perhaps with a fat child of his own. 
We have heard this thing, and we believe it, though we have not 
seen it with our own eyes. 

A successor of Sir James Brooke was inclined to question this 
information on the strength of investigations which he himself 
made some years afterwards. But he does say that some tra- 
vellers in the Kapuas district came across a number of lengths 
of bamboo which appeared to have been hidden away as though 
their owners had taken fright at the rumoured approach of 
white men. When these pieces of bamboo were carefully 
inspected they were found to be hollow canes packed tightly 
with human flesh — “ ‘ iron rations as he remarked of them, 
“of the most hideous type.” 

Another traveller, in the eastern part of Borneo, reported 
that he had noticed that a number of the Dyak tribes were very 
careful to avoid all contact with a tribe known as the Trings. 
He made discreet inquiries as to the reason for this unusual 
form of boycotting, and learned that the Trings were despised 
by the more advanced Dyak tribes for continuing the practice 
of cannibalism which they themselves had now abandoned. 
The traveller, a man named Carl Bock, was told that the Trings 
considered the most succulent portions of a human being to be, 
first the palms of his hands, then the knees, and then the brain. 
“Bai, bai, bai!” the man said to him, meaning “Good, good, 
good ! ” And as he spoke the words he pointed meaningly to 
Carl Bock’s hands, knees and forehead. This Tring informant 
stated proudly that he had tasted the flesh and blood of over 
seventy victims — men, women and children. “The blood of 
their hands and knees and brain,” he ended, “now runs in my 
own blood-stream!” 

Unlike many of the tribes whose activities have already been 
considered, the Dyaks made a habit of organising large-scale 
expeditions for the express purpose of collecting victims; 
whether primarily for the securing of fresh heads, or primarily 


for the purpose of securing further supplies of human flesh to 
eat, is unimportant, for the two motives seem to have been 
virtually indistinguishable. They seem to have taken pleasure 
in the sheer detail of organisation of these expeditions; much 
as a commander in charge of the planning of some piece of 
strategy in modern warfare must be obsessed by the detail of 
logistics and other vital elements. An elaborate account of a 
typical expedition has been pieced together by one John 
Dalton : 

The perseverance of the Dyaks during an expedition is wonderful. 
They get their information in advance from the women of some 
distant campong who have been taken prisoner in a foray. In 
proceeding towards a campong, their canoes are never seen on the 
river in day-time; they invariably commence their journeys 
about half an hour after dark falls. They pull rapidly and silently 
up the river, close to the bank. One boat keeps immediately 
behind another, and the handles of the paddles are covered with 
the soft bark of a tree so that no noise whatsoever is made. 

After paddling without intermission, about half an hour before 
daylight they pull their canoes up on the river bank amongst the 
trees of the thick jvmgle, so that from the river it is quite impossible 
to see them or discover their tracks. Should their chieftain, or 
the leader of the expedition, feel the desire for human flesh, then 
one of the followers is killed. This not only provides him with a 
good meal, but provides also a head. 

Some of the tribesmen then ascend the tallest trees in order to 
examine the surrounding territory and see whether a campong, or 
even an isolated hut or two, lies near at hand. They discover this 
from the smoke of the fires. Should it be a solitary hut, then they 
swiftly surround it and take very good care that not one of its 
occupants escapes. Should it prove to be a campong of any 
considerable size, they go much more warily to work. 

Dalton then goes on to describe the precautions taken by the 
leader of the expedition. One third of his party is sent on in 
advance, through the thickest part of the intervening jungle; 
they station themselves around the perimeter of the campong, 
well out of sight, and with extra sentinels wherever a track 
leads through the jungle to or from the settlement. The 
remainder of the expedition go ahead by canoe, timing their 
arrival at their destination for about one hour before daybreak. 
Once arrived, the warriors put on their fighting equipment, 
which has in the meanwhile been stored in the bottom of their 


canoes. They moor their canoes, and then set out across land 
through the shelter of the trees and scrub. 

Just before daybreak, they start to throw on to the thatched 
roofs of the huts ‘fire-balls’ made of the dry and highly in- 
flammable bark of certain trees, and, Dalton continues: 

The hut roofi immediately and simultaneously burst into flames. 
Then the war-cry of the warriors is heard amid the crackle of 
blazing thatch and of the collapsing hut-poles and wa^. The 
work of the massacre begins at once, in the pandemonium that 
ensues. The male inhabitants of each hut are speared or hacked 
to pieces as they stumble down the ladders from their huts, many 
of which stand high on stilts, in a desperate attempt to escape the 
leaping flames. The flames give sufficient light for the warriors 
to distingfuish between men and women. 

The women and the children — those who are not burned alive 
— escape into the jungle by the well-known tracks ; but only to 
find these already guarded by sentries, from whom there is no 
escaping. They have no choice but to surrender, and are thus 
rounded up and placed imder guards. 

Dalton then describes the elaborate precautions taken by the 
expedition to ensure that no one shall escape capture, even 
though he may have miraculously escaped death by the burning 
of his hut or at the hands of the warriors closing in about the 
campong and hacking their way through the spaces between 
hut and hut. The tracks are guarded ; the bank of the river is 
guarded; sentinel canoes lie in midstream on the look-out for 
anyone foolish enough to try to swim across to the further side. 
The campaign is successful down to the smallest detail. 

The timing of these expeditions, too, is skilful and intelligent. 
The tribesmen believe that men and women sleep most soundly 
in the hour that immediately precedes daylight; that is why 
they choose this moment for their surprise attacks. They 
welcome a little light rainfall, believing that people sleep more 
soundly when rain is falling from the skies ; but this rain must 
only be very light — otherwise it will soak the thatch and 
extinguish the fire-balls, so that the element of surprise and the 
resultant panic will be lost. 

The old women who are captured are immediately killed off. 
The heads of male prisoners are cut off, the brains being 
extracted as soon as possible and held over fire to pickle them 
and thus preserve them. Dalton speaks of a chief whom he 


knew, named Selgie, whose warriors brought back with them 
from one such expedition, which had lasted some six weeks in 
zill, over seven hundred human heads, of which number the 
chief’s own share amounted to more than one third. “There 
is,” he adds, “no degree of suffering a Dyak will not cheerfully 
endure if the recompense is to be even a single additional head.” 
And he adds a personal reminiscence: 

I have been present when Selgie has taken two campongs. The 
inhabitants were surprised and the fighting as a consequence was 
all on one side, though in a few instances some resistance was 
offered. I did not observe them attempt to parry blows with any 
weapons; rather, they took them on their shields or on their 
bamboo caps. The noise was terrific during such a massacre — 
for it can be called no less than that, and is joined in heartily by 
such of the tribe’s women as have prevailed upon the warriors to 
allow them places in the canoes. An old Dyak loves to dwell on 
his success in expeditions such as these; and the terror of the 
women and children he has seen captured, mutilated, and then 
mercilessly killed affords a fruitful source of gratification and even 
amusement when they are gathered together to talk over past 

In the neighbouring large island of Sumatra, according to 
Dr Maynard, whose comments on the Fiji Islanders have 
already been referred to, there were cannibahstic practices in 
every way comparable with those of the Dyaks, and even of the 
more ferocious Fijians themselves. 

The code of the Battas of Sumatra (he wrote) condemns to be 
eaten alive those guilty of adultery, those who commit theft at 
night, prisoners of war, those who treacherously attack the in- 
habitants of a house, or a lonely man. The execution takes place 
without delay, in the presence of the whole population. In cases 
of adultery, one last formality is necessary; the relatives of the 
criminals must be present at the carrying out of the sentence. 
The husband, the wife, or the persons most direcdy offended, 
have the right to retain the ears of the condemned for themselves. 
Then, each according to his rank chooses his fragment, and the 
chief judge cuts off the head and hangs it like a trophy at the door 
of his hut. 

The brain, to which they attribute magical properties, is pre- 
served in a gourd. The intestines are not devoured, but the 
soles of the feet, and the heart, cooked with rice and salt, are re- 
garded as a deliciom dish. The flesh is always eaten raw, or 
grilled at the place of punishment, and the use of palm wine and 
other strong liquors is strongly interdicted at these judicial feasts. 


where the men alone have the right to be present. Sometimes 
also they collect the blood in bamboo stems. In defiance of the 
law, the women use a thousand subterfuges, and employ all their 
seductions, in order to share in this secret and horrible feast. 

Some travellers affirm that the Battas prefer human flesh to all 
other, but only indulge in it during warfare and following the 
death sentence. Others accuse them of immolating, in times of 
peace, from sixty to a hundred slaves annually. But today the 
Battas no longer put their parents to death when age has rendered 
them useless as workers or fighters. Formerly, every year at the 
time of the ripening of the citrons, old men were to be seen 
voluntarily submitting to death. The family assembled ; the victim, 
weighed down by age, collected all his energy and sprang towards 
the branch of a tree, there to remain suspended by both arms until 
his strength failed and he fell to the ground. Then the neighbours 
and children, who had been dancing round him in a circle, sang 
this refrain: “ When the fruit is ripe it needs must fall ! ” They 
thereupon precipitated themselves upon him, beat him to death, 
dismembered him and devoured his flesh, soaking it in samboul or 
sprinkhng it with kari. When an Englishman offers tea and milk, 
the Battas often reject them with scorn, retorting: “ Only children 
drink milk; Battas drink blood ! ” 

E. O. James, whose researches into cannibal and other rites 
among the Aztecs and other communities have already been 
referred to, has a general comment to make on Borneo and 
tribes in adjoining islands and parts of the mainland such as 
Burma and Siam. Concerned, as he tends to be generally, 
with the ceremonial aspect of human sacrifice, he finds a 
deeper motive underlying the practices which have been 
described as characteristic of the Dyaks and neighbouring 

In Indonesia (he writes) head-hunting occupied a position equiva- 
lent to that of human sacrifice in relation to agriculture and the 
cult of the dead, the underlying motive in both rites being appar- 
ently identical. The head was considered to be especially rich in 
‘soul-substance’. The Karens of Burma, for instance, suppose 
that the tso, or ‘ life-principle ’, resides in the upper part of the head 
(as the Nootka of British Columbia regard the soul as a tiny man 
who fives in the crown, and the vibrations of the membrane in the 
fontanel of infants is explained among the Ao Naga tribes as due 
to the movements of the soul) ; and in Siam the greatest care has 
to be exercised in cutting the hair, lest the indwelling khuan be dis- 
turbed. The numerous tabus surrounding the cutting of the 
hair, and the elaborate protection of the head by various coverings 
and devices, take their rise in the belief that the soul is therein 


located. There can be little doubt that the practice of head- 
hunting is based on this same notion. 

It is a welcome relief, sometimes, to pass from factual reports 
of head-hunting expeditions and the various grisly practices 
that follow such expeditions if they have been successful, to the 
deliberate and measured commentary of a man of James’s 
calibre. He remarks, pursuing his highly speciahsed thesis 
by way of the tribes in the Naga Hills, where, he maintains, 
head-hunting was closely associated with the well-being of the 
tribal crops and cattle-breeding, that even among the Kayans 
of Borneo — against whom such adverse criticism was levelled 
by the three ‘intelligent Dyaks from the interior’ — the custom 
of head-hunting was associated with the growing of rice crops. 

In Borneo (he says) the head is believed to contain the ghost, or 
toh, which, so long as it is not neglected, produces fertility in the 
soil, promotes the growth of the crops, and brings prosperity to 
the community in general and to the person who captures the head 
in particular. The soul is conceived of as a sort of egg, or bladder, 
filled with a vaporous substance which is spread over the fields as 
a magical manure when the bladder bursts. The grain is ferti- 
lised, since the vapour holds the vitalising principle. And when 
the grain is eaten as food, its life-giving power is communicated to 
the blood, and thence imparted to the seminal fluid, by means of 
which men and animals are enabled to propagate life. 

There is, then, an intimate connection between the soul and 
fertilisation, and head-hunting is largely prompted by the idea of 
securing additional soul-substance to increase the productivity of 
the soil and, indirectly, the fertility of the tribesmen and tribes- 
women. It adds to the vital essence in the village: hence it is 
essential that as many heads as possible shall be acquired. Just 
as the Aztecs carried on wars to secure sacrificial victims, so the 
head-hunting expeditions became a normal feature of native life. 

James’s theory — admittedly not a novel one, for other anthro- 
pologists before and since his day have elaborated it — may be 
taken as a sort of ‘justification’ of these practices. But it does 
not altogether fit in with the verifiable facts, as quoted. If, for 
example, the ‘soul-substance’ does live within the skull, behind 
the forehead, whether as a ‘tiny man’ or in any other image, 
then the Dyak practice of immediately smoking the skull over 
flames, of scooping out the contents, of snatching mouthfuls 
before the smoking process is even completed, is difficult to 
explain. Had they no superstitious fear in this regard? 



Travelling east from Borneo, which lies surrounded by 
the South China, the Java and the Celebes Seas, we come to 
New Guinea, the second largest island on the world’s surface, 
and find ourselves back in the Pacific Ocean once again. 

New Guinea hes just to the south of the Equator, its northern- 
most tip almost on it. The island is almost equally divided, 
from north to south, by an arbitrary straight line. To the 
west of it is that half of New Guinea which belongs to the 
Dutch; to the east is the half that is administered by Great 
Britain and Australia — which is, by the vast scale of the 
Pacific, a mere stone’s-throw to the south. The south-eastern 
portion of New Guinea, with its huge curve of bay fronting 
the romantically named Coral Sea, is more generally known 
as Papua. We are back, now, in that region of the Pacific 
Islands known as Melanesia — the ‘Black Islands’ where people 
with dark skins and crinkly hair are found. 

And — metaphorically speaking at any rate — certainly New 
Guinea may be considered ‘black’: here, until only the day 
before yesterday, cannibahsm in its most brutal and horrific 
forms was universally practised. Indeed, this is one of the very 
few regions left of which no one dare say for certain that, even 
in the mid-twentieth century, the eating of human flesh is no 
more than a memory. There remain great tracts of New 
Guinea virtually unexplored, and certainly unmapped. 

Most, if not all, of the motives for cannibahsm that have so 
far been encountered seem to prevail here — or to have prevailed 
until all too recently. Revenge is a dominating motive; the 
transfer of desirable quahties from the dead to the hving; the 
prevention of any form of after-life for the victim, including 
the possibihty of his haunting his killers; and, sometimes to the 
exclusion, or at any rate subordination, of all other motives: 
the sheer lust for human flesh, coupled with an accompanying 


NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 129 

passion for sheer cruelty that is unsurpassed in any other part 
of the world. Yet the complicated pattern of tabu is as pro- 
nounced here as it is anywhere in the world, with the most 
extraordinary variations from tribe to tribe — almost, one 
would say, from parish to parish. 

The Rev. James Chalmers, one of a long line of amazingly 
courageous missionaries who have worked there, and all too 
often fallen victims to the very practices they had devoted their 
lives to attempting to eradicate, was successful in discovering 
the legend underlying cannibahsm in New Guinea. There is 
a curious parallel, here, to the Garden of Eden story, and one 
is inclined to suspect that the native who told him the legend 
was already a convert, and had learned at any rate the basic 
Old Testament story! 

I asked him (Chalmers records) why they ate human flesh. He 
told me that it was the women of the tribes who first urged the 
men to kill their fellow human beings for the purpose of eating 

them. The husbands were, the man told me, returning from a 
successful hunt far inland. As was their custom, they were 
blowing their conch-shells and singing and dancing. 

As they approached the village, coming down the river in their 
canoes piled high with wallabies, boars and cassowaries, the 
women called out to them: “What success, husbands, that you 
sing and dance so?” “Great success,” the men shouted back. 
“Plenty to eat. Here, come and see for yourselves.” 

The women approached the canoes, and when they saw what 
was in them, they called out : “What, just that dirty stuff? ” And 

then, in voices of scorn: “Who is going to eat that? Is that 
what you call successful hunting?” 

Then the men began reasoning among themselves: “What do 
our wives mean, mocking us like this? ” And one of them, wiser 
than the others, said after much thought: “I know. They want 
the flesh of man ! ” 

Then, throwing the wallabies and boars and cassowaries over 
the sides of their canoes, they went quickly along the river to a 
neighbouring village and brought back with them ten bodies. 
But, the man said to me, the men returned in their canoes without 
their usual singing and rejoicing. 

When the women who were waiting for them on the river bank 
saw them approaching the village, they called out: “What have 
our husbands brought for us to eat, this time?” And then they 
looked, but their husbands did not look at them, only cast their 
eyes downwards at what lay in their canoes. “Yes, that is 
right!” shouted the women. “Dance and sing again, now, for 



you have brought back with you something worth dancing and 
singing about!” 

Then the ten bodies were taken out of the canoes and put on the 
river bank. And the women cooked them, and pronounced 
them good. And after a while, the men also said that the flesh 
was good. And from that day till now, the men and women of 
these tribes have always said that the flesh of human beings is 
better than the flesh of any other animal. 

And certainly all the evidence points to the fact that, what- 
ever the origin of cannibalism may have been, here in New 
Guinea — and the legend is of course quite worthless except for 
the odd hght it sheds on a relationship between a missionary 
and a native in the latter end of the nineteenth century — the 
practice was long established by the time the first white men 
landed on its inhospitable shores, and was an unconscionable 
time a-dying. Writing only forty years ago, J. H. P. Murray, 
Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Judicial Officer in Papua, 
added unwittingly a footnote : “ Certain tribes here like human 
flesh and do not see why they should not eat it. Indeed, I have 
never been able to give a convincing answer to a native who 
says to me, ‘Why should I not eat human flesh?’ ” 

Writing very much more recently on this same subject, a 
Government anthropologist researching into the Papuan 
Orokaiva Society had this to say; “The reason for cannibalism 
itself has been given by these natives as the simple desire for 
good food. Anthropologically speaking, the fact that we our- 
selves should persist in a superstitious, or at least sentimental, 
prejudice against human flesh is more puzzhng than the fact 
that the Orokaiva, a born hunter, should see fit to enjoy per- 
fectly good meat when he gets it.” 

Such an observation as this is of course a far cry from the 
comment of the traveller Alfred St Johnston, who made it very 
clear that he himself would be glad to break with such ‘ super- 
stitious nonsense’ and indulge in cannibalism with the natives 
of Fiji. This anthropologist, F. E. WiUiams, reported back to 
his government in detail, his report characteristic, both in its 
detail and in its attitude, of many such reports : 

The corpses of grown men were tied by hands and feet to a pole 
and carried face downward. In the case of a child, one hand was 
tied to one foot, and a warrior would sling the body over his 
shoulder as a hunter might a wallaby’s. Usually the victim was 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 131 

dead before being bound in this manner. An ingenious, if grue- 
some, method of carrying human flesh was observed by a former 
Resident Magistrate in the Division. The limbs had been 
peculiarly treated. The ankle-joints had been severed, leaving 
the Achilles tendon intact. The bones of the leg had been 
excised and the pelvical bone removed. The ham had been 
neatly cut off". The boneless leg was wrapped carefully round a 
three-foot stick and the foot secured to the stick by a piece of vine. 
In this manner the flesh could be carried comfortably on one’s 

Brought home by the raiders, the corpse of the victim was set 
upright in the village, still attached to its pole. During the night 
there was dancing to the accompaniment of the drum and the hui, 
a trumpet of wood or shell. In the morning the body was taken 
down to the stream and cut up in the running water, in order to 
wash away the blood. Various portions were then distributed, 
as they are in the case of a pig, and little odds and ends were given 
to the children, who played at roasting them in the fires. 

Wi lli ams turns next, as all true anthropologists do, to the 
various tabus that attended the consumption of human flesh, 
which, as has been stated already, covered a wide range. Here, 
as among certain other tribes, the actual slayer of the victim 
was debarred from partaking of the victim’s flesh. 

This rule was rigidly observed. However, though the slayer 
might not eat of the slain, he was permitted to bite into small por- 
tions of the liver, after it had been ceremonially treated with sym- 
bolic herbs. Possibly the slayer believed that he thus assimilated 
some of the courage and fierceness of his victim; but it must be 
remembered that the liver is regarded as the seat of fear as well 
as of the more warlike emotions. 

This tabu on the flesh of the slain among the Orokaiva applies 
not only to the slayer but to his father, mother and nearest rela- 
tives. If they were rash enough to partake, their genitalia would 
swell, their joints grow crooked and their heads turn bald. In 
view of such alarming risks, it seems likely that there was thought 
to be in the person of the slain something like infection to that of 
the slayer. The slayer would always be prompt to remove his 
perineal band and wear a leaf, or nothing at all, imtil he reached 
home and could effect a change of clothing. If he had despatched 
his victim with a club, he would straightway change this for 
another man’s; on no account must he shoulder the club that 
struck the mortal blow, for he would then run the risk of a 
swollen or distorted shoulder-joint. 

Again, the slayer must perform certain rites, and observe cer- 
tain tabus. He must not drink pime water out of the river but 
only that which has been stirred up and made muddy by the feet 


of a non-slayer. He must not eat taro cooked in the pot, but only 
that which has been roasted on the open fire. He must abstain 
frpm sexual intercourse. These restrictions last for several da.ys, 
and then the slayer eats the same purificatory stew — suna — which 
is given to initiates at the end of their seclusion. 

Among the Binandele tribe there is a peculiar rite which immedi- 
ately precedes the ceremonial eating of the suna. The slayer 
climbs into a certain tree which contains a nest of those large and 
aggressive insects commonly known as ‘green ants’. The tree 
is always swarming with them. While he crouches in a fork of the 
tree, branches are broken off and laid over him so that he is 
almost completely covered and thoroughly bitten. Having 
endured this for some time, he climbs down from the tree and eats 
the suna, steaming himself over the dish and sponging his joints 
with handfuls of the stewed leaves. 

Williams adds that these rites and tabus are not merely 
purificatory; they are also, as are others like them, defensive. 
They serve the vital purpose of driving away the asisi, as these 
natives call the spirit or ghost of the man who has been slain. 
Not only is the slayer held to be unclean for a given period of 
time till he is purified; he is at the mercy of the ghost of the 
victim, and must be protected from it. There seems to be a 
close parallel here, even in matters of small detail, between 
the Orokaiva and the Kwakiutl Indians. 

The practice of secrecy — the passing from hand to hand, as it 
were, of the responsibility for the actual killing — ^which has 
been noted for example among the members of the Sierra Leone 
Leopard Societies attains a curiously high level among these 
New Guinea tribes; notably among those of the Purari Delta. 

J. H. P. Murray, the Lieutenant-Governor and Chief 
Judicial Officer in Papua already referred to, has this to say 
about them : 

The people of the Purari Delta are naturally secretive as to their 
religious beliefs and practices, and not inclined to discuss them 
with strangers, but information emerges in the course of trials and 
official investigations. For instance, in the year 1909 I tried a 
man called Aval, a native of Baimuru, who was charged with the 
murder of a woman of Baroi. His statement contained some 
curious details. He said: “Bai-i told us to kill three Baroi 
pieople. We caught Aimari and his two wives, in Era Bay. 
Kairi killed Aimari. I killed one wife, and lomu the other. I 
killed the woman with a dagger of cassowary bone. We put the 
bodies in the canoe and took them back with us. I did not bite 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 133 

off the woman’s nose. It is not our custom to bite off the nose of 
a person you have killed. If I kill a man or a woman, someone 
else bites off his nose. We bite off the noses of people that others 
have killed. We bite them off; we do not cut them off. 

“ We left the three bodies in our canoe till morning. Then we 
took them into our village and put them on the platform. Then 
we singed them, cut them up into small pieces, mixed the pieces 
with sago, cooked them, wrapped them up in leaves of nipa-palm, 
and distributed them. I ate a hand of one woman, but it was not 
the hand of the woman I myself killed. It is not our custom to 
eat a person we have ourselves killed. But if, after kiUing a man, 
you go and sit on a coconut, with also a coconut imder each heel, 
and get your daughter to boil the man’s heart, then you may drink 
the water in which the heart has been boiled. And you may eat 
a little of the heart also, but you must be sitting on the coconuts 
all the time.” 

The simplicity of the statement is convincing. It was 
Murray who observed that he had never, in all the course of 
his career as a judicial officer in Papua, been able to think of a 
really convincing answer to the man under trial for cannibalism 
who asks him, simply: “Why should I not eat human ffesh?” 
He records elsewhere that many of the tribesmen of whom he 
has knowledge regard human ffesh as civilised men regard beef 
and mutton. He quotes a witness in a trial who said in 
evidence: “We boil the bodies. We cut them up and boil 
them in a pot. We boil babies too. We cut them up hke a 
pig. We eat them cold or hot. We eat the legs first. We eat 
them because they are like fish. We have fish in the creeks, 
and kangaroos in the grass. But men are our real food.” 

This small detail of biting off the nose of a victim interested 
the anthropologist, Williams, when he was inquiring into the 
customs of the tribes of the Purari Delta. He found that among 
them there was a frequent need of human victims in connection 
with a curious, and unique, ceremony known as Gopi — a 
ceremonial attending the initiation of young tribesmen. As 
with the Leopard Men in Sierra Leone, the raids were carefully 
organised, stealthy and usually carried out under cover of 
darkness. But not always. He cites a specific instance which 
was brought to his attention : 

A gang of Kairu men in canoes spotted a solitary member of 
another tribe alone in his canoe. They pursued him into the 
bush, where he was overtaken and struck down with a cassowary 


dagger. He was then dragged back to the water’s edge, where 
another member of the raiding party was called on to deliver the 
finishing blow. This is a characteristic feature of all such raids. 

The man who captures, or fetches down, the victim is called 
Kenia Vake, and to him belongs the honour and glory of the 
occasion. But he himself does not actually despatch the victim; 
anyone close at hand may be called upon. This second person, 
besides slaying the captive, enjoys the singular privilege of biting 
off his nose. He is known as the Poke Vake, or ‘Nose-man’. 

Among these people, the hmnan victim was not always cere- 
monially dissected, but was sometimes left lying on the floor 
so that anyone who wished to do so could come and hack off a 
morsel to his liking. 

This occasional casualness in the matter of the distribution 
and consumption of human meat seems to have been a charac- 
teristic of these Purari Delta and other New Guinea tribesmen. 
Sir William MacGregor, who wrote the Foreword to Murray’s 
book, had this to say: 

There suddenly began to appear in sight, with the first dim grey of 
dawn, the leading war-canoes of a powerful native armada. 
They came on up the river out of the semi-darkness with swift 
and steady strokes of the paddle, with a silence and regularity that 
was almost spectral. 

When I examined their canoes I found that the marauders had 
captured some ten or twelve people. There were, in four separate 
canoes, four adult, undivided dead bodies. In another there was 
the body of a little girl of seven or eight, still tied by the hands and 
feet to the pole on which her tender little body had been carried. 

A village had been raided, and the canoes were full of plunder. 
A host of miscellaneous articles had been collected, all of which 
were lying about in the canoes, with here and there a human hand 

A nearer examination showed that the member had been 
detached, clumsily and unskilfully hacked from the body by an 
inexperienced hand, and that it was already half-cooked, probably 
to keep it longer sweet. On the platforms of the canoes were also 
little made-up parcels and packets of human flesh, deftly en- 
veloped in leaves and tied with bark. On some of the platforms 
were large and small uncovered pieces, some cooked and ready for 
the table, others apparently the remains left over from an inter- 
rupted meal. One of these was a large piortion of the back of a 
child, half cooked, and corresponding exactly to what is known to 
the cook as a ‘saddle’. In the holds of the canoes were coils of 
human intestines, sorted as one folds a fishing-line, with a stick 
through the coil supporting it by resting on the edges of the canoe 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 135 

so as to let the coil fall into the hold but without the lower end 
reachir^ down to the bilge-water. 

Murray himself reports the case of a young man near Port 
Moresby who was unfortunate enough to fall into the river and 
be snatched at by a crocodile. Only a portion of his body, 
however, was eaten by the crocodile. The young man’s wife 
and children, accompanied by his father and mother and some 
close friends, thereupon sat down by the river side and ate the 
remains of the body. When questioned about their apparently 
callous act, they answered that they had done what they did 
“out of affection”. 

Probably the greatest authority on the tribes of New Guinea 
was C. G. Seligmann, who has written at great length, and with 
an immense amount of documentation, about their habits and 
customs, their religious and magical ceremonials, their tabus 
and traditions. He states categorically: “ In the vast majority 
of cases of cannibalism in the south-eastern districts, the eating 
of human flesh was part of the solemn act of revenge, which it 
was the duty of each community to take on behalf of its own 
members killed and eaten by other communities with whom it 
was at enmity.” 

He does, however, add that in a certain number of cases, 
which he considers to have been small, human flesh was 
devoured not specifically as an act of revenge but because it was 
enjoyed. Complete strangers trespassing over the territory of 
these tribes were commonly killed and devoured, he says; and 
adds: “There was, of course, no large or constant supply of 
food of this kind.” This is hardly surprising in view of the 
notorious customs of the New Guinea tribes ! 

The two main factors concerned in the cannibalism of south- 
eastern New Guinea (Seligmann writes) were the duty of taking 
vengeance for a member of the hamlet-group killed, and the 
desire for human flesh, for which undoubtedly there was a very 
strong liking. The individual or individuals eaten in revenge for 
a comrade who had been eaten by a hostile community had the 
tide Maia, or Maiha. The usage connected with such warfare 
imdertaken to obtain Maiha, and the ceremonial observed at the 
ensuing cannibal feast, can best be illustrated by taking an actual 

It became known at Maivara that a Wagawaga canoe was 
about to visit Basiliki, so three canoes put off quietly at night and 


an ambush was formed behind an island which the Wagawaga 
canoe would pass. The ambush was successful and two prisoners, 
a man of the Garuboi clan and a girl of about ten belonging to 
another clan, came into the Maivara men’s hands. The prisoners 
were bound and flung into one of the Maivara canoes, which then 
leisurely started for home. They took care, however, to pass close 
to Wagawaga on their way. 

When opposite Wagawaga, the canoes approached to within 
two hundred yards of the shore, the men gesticulating and waving 
and blowing conch-sheUs. Then they halted, and gave the dance 
called Besa, or Boriri, which is used on such occasions. The cap- 
tives were made to stand up and were then stripped naked. The 
man’s perineal band was waved in the air by the captors, who 
yelled the names of the prisoners and detailed how they would be 
cooked and eaten. Then the canoes continued on their way, and 
on arrival the man was duly eaten after the usual preliminaries, 
though the girl, as was the custom sometimes, was adopted by a 
woman of the Maivara tribe. 

Seligmann goes on to describe how the Wagawaga menfolk, 
wild with anger and frustration, began to prepare a retaliatory 
move. When the time came, they set out, entered the Maivara 
River, and about midnight surrounded an isolated hut, and 
captured a prisoner. Once clear of the river and the shore, the 
Wagawaga men danced their Borin dance and hurled insults at 
the Maivara men who had run out to see what was happening. 

Then (he goes on) the canoes returned triumphantly to Waga- 
waga, where the captive was pitched into shallow water, speared 
by as many warriors as could reach him there, and then dragged 
ashore. The greatest care was taken not to kill the captive at this 
stage, for it was necessary that he should be more or less severely 
wounded by the next-of-kin of the man for whom the revenge was 
being taken. In this instance, the brother of the dead man, who 
was not a member of the war party, slashed him across the 
shoulder with a tomahawk. Even now, the victim was not killed ; 
and if, as rarely happened, he was mortally injured, it was looked 
upon as a regrettable mishap. 

The next stage was for the widow of the man for whom revenge 
was being exacted to blind the Maiha. This she would do by 
thrusting pointed sticks into the victim’s eyes, taunting him the 
while in some such terms as these : “ With your eyes you saw my 
husband killed; now will your eyes be no more use to you!” 
Then the dead man’s sister’s children spear the victim until he 
dies, and his body is then carved up by the men. 

Alternatively, he would be dragged to the stone circle of the 
clan that was especially reserved for cannibal feasts. There he 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 137 

would be enveloped in dry coconut leaves and lashed to a tree, 
usually a coconut tree, which always stands in the middle of these 
stone circles. The leaves would then be ignited, and as a rule the 
victim in due course expired. 

Seligmann adds that cases have been known where a prisoner, 
mutilated and terribly burned by this practice, managed to 
escape from the tree because the flames happened to bum 
through the lashings before actually bringing about his death; 
but this chance was a rare one indeed, for the victim would 
normally be under close observation by the relatives of the 
dead man for whom the revenge was being taken, and by those 
waiting in expectation of the feast to come. 

In New Guinea, human flesh was usually boiled, though it 
was also the practice, if rather less general, to cook it in the 
native ovens. The penis, which was especially esteemed as 
food, was usually split and then roasted on hot ashes. The 
best pieces were the tongue, the hands, feet and mammae', the 
brain, extracted from the foramen magnum of the boiled skull, 
was broken up and considered a very special dehcacy. The 
intestines and solid viscera, as well as the testes and vulva, were 
also eaten, and there were a few members of the tribes who 
preferred to eat human flesh raw, though this was much more 
difficult than eating it when it had been properly cooked. 

Human flesh (says Seligmann, as a result of his inquiries among 
the tribesmen, mainly in south-eastern New Guinea) is stated to 
resemble pig in flavour, but to make better food, since — although 
they both taste much alike — the former has the more deUcate 
flavour, as well as the further advantage, claimed for it by every- 
one who can be persuaded to talk freely on the subject, that it 
never produces any painful feeling of satiety, or induces vomiting. 
It has been emphasised by these people that if too much pig flesh 
were eaten, a man’s stomach would swell up and he would be 
sick; but that human flesh might be eaten xmtil a man found it 
impossible to swallow any more, without producing these 
unpleasant symptoms. 

Seligmann adds that, throughout his inquiries into this aspect 
of the subject, he never found anyone to admit that there had 
been more than the rarest cases of an individual’s having 
reached satiety in this respect. 

In cases where two prisoners had been brought back to the 
village at the same time, it was the practice of these tribes to 


kill and then roast one of them before the eyes of the other, “so 
that the second victim could fiiUy appreciate the agony he 
would suffer when his turn came. A further refinement of 
barbarism was to thrust splinters of wood into the victim’s 
flesh, then light them and allow them to burn down to the skin. 
The pith contained in the mid-rib of a coconut-leaf was held,” 
Sehgmann reports, “to be particularly suitable food to eat with 
roasted human flesh. The burned corpse was laid on a pan- 
danus-leaf mat, cut up, and then eaten pardy inside and partly 
beyond the limit of the tribe’s stone circle.” 

There was a much rarer, but still widely prevalent, form of 
cannibalism in New Guinea. This consisted of the eating of 
bodies exhumed for the purpose some time after they had been 
buned. Seligmann admits that he found difiiculty in ascertain- 
ing these details, but is convinced that the practice was in 
existence at the turn of the century, at any rate in the region of 
Milne Bay, which is at the extreme south-easternmost tip of the 

The court at Samara! tried a case of desecration of sepulchre, two 
adult women and a girl — smother and two daughters — being the 
offenders. The little child of the elder of the two daughters had 
died, and had been buried in the usual manner. About one day 
^ter the burial, the three accused had dug up the body, and eaten 
it. The woman belonged to a village near the head of Milne 
Bay. They protested that what they had done had always been, 
and still remained, a custom of their country. In the light of their 
statement, the penalty they incurred was only a short term of 

It was harder still, Seligmann found, to obtain reliable 
information on yet another aspect of this, for sorcerers and 
sorcery were involved here, and it was virtually impossible to 
get tribesmen to open their mouths on the subject. A certain 
amount of information, however, was collected : 

That sorcerers made a practice of exhuming and eating corpses 
seems to indicate that their object was to perform an act of magic. 
The natives themselves constantly assert that graves of their dead 
are opened secretly by their local sorcerers. 

Few, if my, of the sorcerers will admit that they carry out this 
j^actice with the sole object of obtaining food. In many cases 
the sorcerers are \yomen. Some women of the tribe, anxious 
memselves to acquire the status and power of a sorcerer, or a 
Parauma, as the sorcerer is called along the whole coast, indulge 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 139 

in this practice as the surest means to this desirable end. A girl 
who was asked, during an official inquiry, about a certain woman 
regarded by her tribe as a Parauma, answered, after a good deal of 
hesitation and prevarication: “Perhaps — who knows? — she eats 
a buried body.” 

The existence of sorcerers, or witches, is confirmed by a 
missionary, the Rev. W. E. Bromilow, who reported from Dobu, 
in the south-eastern part of New Guinea. But in his report it 
is evident that the activities of witches were not so much secretly 
feared as openly condemned — even by tribes among whom 
normal cannibalism was practised. 

Witches (Bromilow writes) are said to eat the bodies of the dead. 
We have often heard reports of evil spirits and witches eating dead 
bodies, but thought them exaggerated. However, there is 
apparently a clear case on the spot. An old woman died in one 
of the villages near us, and a week or two afterwards a most 
horrible report was circulated. The grave of the old woman had 
been disturbed, and on inquiry it was found that the deceased 
woman’s own sister had taken out the body, and with some of her 
fellow-witches had partaken of a cannibal feast. 

Some of her male relations wished to strangle her right off, and 
throw her into the sea, but our presence prevented them and she 
was allowed to go away. She herself denied the story, but when a 
Government Officer took evidence on the case, he opened the 
grave and foimd that the body had in fact been removed. There 
is certainly real horror at the affair in the minds of many, and as 
soon as the report began to get about, no one would eat from any 
pot she had been boiling, and many would not even touch any 
fruit or other edible she had handled. 

A. P. Rice, the American anthropologist who has already 
been quoted in connection with the cannibalistic practices of 
the Fijian Islanders, reports one curious custom among the 
Papuans of which no mention is made by Seligmann : 

One of the New Guinea Papuan tribes has the custom of taking 
out its grandparents, when they have become too old to be of any 
use to the tribe, and tying each of them loosely in the branches of 
a tree. The populace will then form a ring round the tree and 
indulge in an elaborate dance, which has some affinity with the 
traditional Maypole dance. As they dance, they cry out in 
chorus a refrain which has a somewhat sinister double-barrelled 
meaning: “The Fruit is Ripe! The Fruit is Ripe!” Then, 
having repeated this cry, they close in upon the tree and violently 
shake its branches, so that the old men and women come hurtling 


to the grotind below, there to be seized and devoured by the 
younger members of the tribe. 

It would seem that, throughout New Guinea, no one would 
ever eat the flesh of a man he had himself killed, or even of a 
prisoner he had himself captured. Writing about this very 
emphatic tabu, and its consequences, Seligmann states: 

The actual killer or captor of the man who was to be eaten would 
go straight to his own hut, and stay there for about a month, living 
on roast taro and hot coconut milk; his wife would continue to 
share his hut, but must for that period sleep apart from him. He 
remains thus isolated in his hut because he is afraid of the ‘blood’ 
of the dead man, and it is for this reason that he does not join his 
fellow- warriors in partaking of the flesh. For if he were to do 
this, he believes, his belly would become ‘full of blood’, and he 
would promptly die. 

There is, however, something more subtle in all this than the 
actual blood, though it is in fact connected with blood. He goes 
in terror not only of the blood, but of the smell, or ‘ vajxmr ’, of the 
blood. It is as though certain imperceptible qualities emanating 
from the blood lingered about the scene of the cannibal feast and 
adhered to a greater or lesser degree to all those who had taken 
part in it; adhered, what is more, long after all physical traces had 
been removed. These emanations, or influences, were held to be 
specially injurious to the provider of the feast. It was to avoid 
them so far as was possible that the seclusion within the hut lasted 
a whole month. The provider of the feast — for this same reason 
— ^would not take lime from the lime gourd of any member of his 
tribe or clan who had taken part in the feast. 

The homicide’s brother would prepare the skull and take it to 
the platform of the hut. He had the right to wear on the upper 
arm an armlet which was made of the lower jaw of the Maiha. 
His cervical vertebrae might also be worn, but it had to be 
attached to the man’s back hair, which is usually allowed to grow 
very long at Wagawaga. 

A man or woman killed and eaten otherwise than as payment 
for the death of a clansman was called Idaidaga. A stranger, for 
example, might be killed and eaten for no other cause than a 
desire for a favourite food. Whoever actually killed the stranger 
had to abstain from his flesh, and indeed follow all the rules that 
applied to the killer of a Maiha. 

The victim, if he was taken alive, was dragged to his captor’s 
tribe s stone circle, speared — but not mortally wounded — and 
then roasted and cut up in the usual way. His flesh was distri- 
buted by his captor’s brother, who called the name of each re- 
cipient. All members of the tribe who had attained the age of 
puberty, whether male or female, were permitted to eat of this 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 141 

flesh, though it appears that the women did not invariably avail 
themselves of the privilege. There were naturally fewer abstainers 
among the menfolk, but the old and toothless were forced by 
circumstances to abstain from the eating of flesh which they had 
regarded as a dehcacy since their earliest manhood. Indeed, at 
Wagawaga this fact was so clearly recognised that when human 
flesh — usually in supply inadequate to the demand — ^was being 
distributed among the tribe, the names of the aged and the tooth- 
less were not even called. 

Before leaving New Guinea, among whose numerous tribes 
the variations of practice and tabu are so many that it seems at 
times as though there can be no end to them, it is worth seeing 
what two later travellers, one writing shortly before the First 
World War, the other writing within the last year or two, have 
had to say. 

H. Wilfred Walker, F.R.G.S., had travelled widely in the 
South Pacific and was interested in the smaller islands as well as 
the larger ones. In the early years of this century he joined a 
punitive expedition led by the Resident Magistrate against the 
Dobodura Tribe. 

We decided (he writes) to rush the village of Kanau, but when we 
got there we found it deserted. In the centre of the village was a 
kind of small, raised platform, on which were rows of human 
skulls and quantities of bones, the remnants of many a gruesome 
cannibal feast. Many of the skulls were quite fresh, with small 
bits of meat still sticking to them, but for all that, they had been 
picked very clean. Every skuU had a large hole punched in the 
side, varying in size but uniform as regards jwsition. The 
explanation for this we soon learnt from the Notus, and later it 
was confirmed by our prisoners. 

When the Doboduras capture an enemy, they slowly torture him 
to death, practically eating him ahve. When he is almost dead, 
they made a hole in the side of the head and scoop out his brains 
wtith a kind of wooden spoon. These brains, which are eaten 
warm and fresh, were regarded as a great delicacy. No doubt 
the Notus recognised some of their relatives amid the ghastly 
relics. . . . 

Walker describes some further aspects of the expedition, in 
the same laconic style, and then picks up his story with rather 
more emotion, though his reactions are kept well under control, 
his effects being gained as often as not by understatement: 

We sat talking in subdued tones for some time, expecting every 
minute to hear the thrilling war-cry of the Doboduras. We 


could hear the dismal falsetto howls of the native dogs in the dis- 
tance, and they were not particularly exhilarating at such a time, 
and I more than once mistook them for distant war-cries. 

The Papuans do not as a rule torture their prisoners for the 
mere idea of torture, though they have often been known to roast 
a man alive — ^for the reason that his meat is supposed to taste 
better thus. I have heard of cases of white men having been 
roasted alive, one case being that of the two miners. Campion and 
King. But we had learned that this Dobodura tribe had a system 
of torture that was brutal beyond words. 

In the first place they always try to wound slightly, and capture 
a man alive, so that they can have fresh meat for many days. 
They keep their prisoners tied up alive in the huts, and cut out 
pieces of their flesh just when they want them ; we were told that, 
incredible as it may seem, they sometimes manage to keep them 
alive for a week or more, and have some preparation which pre- 
vents them from bleeding to death. 

Monkton advised both Acland and myself to shoot ourselves 
with our revolvers if we saw that we were overwhelmed, so as to 
escape these terrible tortures, and he assured us that he should 
keep the last bullet in his revolver for himself. 

The other traveller is a Dane named Jens Bjerre, who wrote 
about a New Guinea cannibal tribe in a book published as 
recently as 1956. The tribe, known as the Kukukuku, seem 
to have been every bit as savage as the Dobodiuras of whom 
Walker was writing in his report at the end of the punitive 

When a party of warriors takes an enemy prisoner (Bjerre writes), 
either in combat or by abduction, they tie the captive to a thin 
tree-trunk and bring him horizontally back to their village. So 
that their prisoner shall not escape, they then break his legs with 
a blow of the club, bind him to a tree and adorn him with shells 
and feathers in preparation for the forthcoming orgy. Fresh 
vegetables are brought in from the fields and a big hole is dug in 
the ground for an oven. As a rule, the children are tillowed to 
‘play’ with the prisoner; that is to say, to use him as a target, and 
finally stone him to death. This process is designed to harden the 
children and teach them to kill with rapture. 

When the prisoner has been killed, his arms and legs are cut off 
with a bamboo knife. The flesh is then cut up into small pieces, 
wrapped in bark and cooked, together with the vegetables, in the 
oven in Ae ground. Men, women and children all take part in 
the ensuing orgy, usually to the accompaniment of dances and 
jubilant songs. 

Only enemies are eaten. If the victim is a young, strong 

NEW guinea: ‘revenge’ cannibalism and tabu 143 

warrior, the muscular parts of his body are given to the village 
boys, so that they can absorb the dead man’s power and valour. 

It will be noticed that Jens Bjerre writes in the present tense: 
as if he had witnessed these things himself. This is unlikely, to 
say the least; for in New Guinea it seems that these cannibal 
practices were well on the way out by the turn of the century. 
Pockets of resistance, so to speak, will certainly have survived 
until very much more recently; and possibly survive still in the 
remote and unmapped hinterland of New Guinea. The island 
lies close enough to the Equator (the line of latitude on which 
so many cannibal-infested territories seem to have survived 
longer than elsewhere) to be suspect stiU; but with the rapid 
increase in ease of communication, particularly through aerial 
survey, it seems unlikely that even these hypothetical pockets of 
resistance can survive much longer. 



Lying some five hundred miles off the north-east coast of 
New Guinea, and stretching south-eastwards for some two 
thousand miles, in the direction of the North Island of New 
Zealand, there is a chain of large and small islands, separated 
from one another often by only narrow channels, and occupied 
by Melanesians of whom, in the case of the New Hebrideans at 
any rate, an encyclopaedia published in 1951 is able to state 
categorically; “They are still cannibals.” 

The islands consist of a number of large groups, such as those 
constituting New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomons, the New 
Hebrides and New Caledonia. They are tropical in their 
vegetation, producing in many cases coffee and cocoa, cotton 
and copra; many of them are volcanic. Though they are, 
geographically. South Sea Islands, with the inevitable associa- 
tions of such islands, they are in many ways exceptionally 
forbidding territory. Not least because of their tradition of 
cannibalism and brutality to travellers and traders, their sheer 
intractability in the face of western influence, their rigid adher- 
ence to their old ways of life, however heavy the pressure may 
be that is brought to bear on them. Sandwiched between New 
Guinea, with its formidable record of man-eating, and the Fiji 
Islands with a record hardly less formidable, it is perhaps 
hardly surprising that they should stick so tenaciously to 

The well-known traveller, Martin Johnson, was in the New 
Hebrides immediately before, and perhaps actually during, the 
First World War. He writes, as so many travellers in these 
parts have done, rather as if their senses have been dulled by what 
they saw. Nor can they be entirely blamed for this, since 
famiharity with conditions, however startling and dangerous 
they may have seemed at first impact, must breed, if not 
contempt at least comfortable acceptance! 



We walked (he writes) for about three hours without seeing any 
signs of a village. Then we heard, faint in the distance, the soimd 
of a tom-tom. Soon we were within hearing of a chanted song. 
We advanced with caution, until we reached the edge of a village 
clearing. From behind a clump of bushes we could watch the 
natives who danced there. The dance was just the ordinary 
native hay-foot, straw-foot, around the devil-devils in the centre 
of the clearing; now slow, now gradually increasing in tempo till 
it was a run. 

What interested me was the feast that was in preparation. On 
a long stick, over the fire, were a dozen pieces of meat. More 
meat was grilling on the embers of another fire. On leaves near 
by were the entrails of the animal that was cooking. I do not 
know what it was that made us suspect the nature of this meat. 
It certainly was not much different in appearance from pork. 
But some sixth sense whispered to me that it was not pork. 

For an hour we watched, and took long-range photographs. 
The dance continued monotonously. The meat sizzled slowly 
over the fire — and nothing happened. Then I gave one of the 
Tongoa boys a radium flare and told him to go into the clearing, 
drop the flare into the fire, and run to one side, out of the picture. 
He did as I asked him. The natives stopped dancing, and 
watched him as he approached. He threw the flare into the 
fire, and jumped aside. 

As they stooped down close to the flames to see what he had 
thrown there, the flare took fire, and sent its blinding white light 
into their faces. With a yell, they sprang back, and ran in terror 
directly towards us. Then they turned and ran in the opposite 
direction. The half-minute flare burned out; so they grabbed 
the meat from the fire and carried it away with them into the bush. 

My boys sprang into the clearing. I, with my camera on my 
shoulder, was just behind them. V^en I came up to them, they 
were standing by the fire, looking at the only remnant of the feast 
that was left; on the embers. It was a charred human head, vwth 
rolled leaves plugging the eye-sockets ! I had proved what I had 
set out to prove : that cannibalism is still practised in the South 
Seas. I was so happy that I yelled ! 

After photographing the evidence, I wrapped the head carefully 
in leaves, to take away with me. We picked the fire over, but 
could find no other remainder of the gruesome feast. In one of 
the huts, however, we discovered a quantity of human hair, laid 
out on a green leaf, to be made into ornaments. Some of the 
cannibals returned and, from a distance, watched as we searched 
their huts. I then took their pictures. They grinned into the 
camera, as innocent as children. Later, we invited them to take 
a meal with us. They ate our trade salmon and biscuits with 
gusto and smacked their lips over the coffee; but their favourite 
dish of ‘long pig’ was not on the bill of fare! 



More thoughtful by far than Martin Johnson’s is a report by 
a missionary in the New Hebrides, the Rev. Oscar Michelsen. 
He is less concerned to get photographs, and prove to his own 
satisfaction the existence of a deplorable custom among the 
New Hebrideans, than to express his despair at the infinitesim- 
ally slow progress his mission seems to be making. Martin 
Johnson wcis writing of the Malekula region; Michelsen is 
writing of experiences on the cluster of tiny islands that cling to 
the edge of the larger ones. 

One day when I was on Nguna (he writes) news arrived of a fear- 
ful massacre having been committed on the island of Efate, the 
other side of Nguna Bay. Another missionary, Mr Milne, and I 
repaired to the spot and ascertained the facts. 

A number of natives from the island of Makura had arrived in 
Efate, just opposite Nguna, to dig some taumako, a vegetable simi- 
lar in appearance to the potato. The chief who instigated and 
led in the massacre had been among Europeans, in Queensland 
and elsewhere, for thirteen years, and could speak English well. 
He denied having killed anyone; but while the words were in his 
mouth, evidences of his guilt were forthcoming. In the siuf on 
the beach lay the trunk of a human body; in a canoe alongside 
was the head ; and the arms and legs were roasting on a fire in a 
neighbouring village. 

Confronted with proofs of his crime, the brutal feUow readily 
excused himself. The things said by missionaries, he agreed 
willingly enough, were quite right and good for the white man; 
but they do not suit the black man. 

Seeing that we could accomplish nothing, we left for the 
mission station in the boat which had conveyed us across the bay. 
When we were a short distance out from land, we saw a procession 
going along the beach. The body of a man, lashed to a pole, was 
being carried by two persons. A conch-shell was blown, and 
some young men went in front, swinging spears over their heads. 
This was in bravado of the act of murder. Others followed, 
filled with the same evil spirit. When the true facts came to 
light, our worst fears were realised : for several persons had been 
killed, and their bodies had been distributed as presents to friends 
among the tribe. 

Michelsen has already made the point that, according to his 
observations and such research as he had been able to make in 
the district with which he was primarily concerned, though 
“ the depraved appetite of fallen man, in his lowest estate (as he 
puts it) is gratified by the taste of human flesh”, there is another, 
and more positive motive. This is “a wish to show how 


entirely they can vanquish their enemies: they make food of 
them! Malakaleo, a chief at first bitterly opposed to the 
Gospel, answered a message from his enemies with the threat : 
‘We will eat you!’ ” He ends his note on the massacre on 
Efate with a paragraph illustrating the connection between the 
massacre and his reference to the motive of revenge coupled 
with absolute destruction: 

The crime was excused by the statement that, some time previ- 
ously, a number of natives of Epi, working for a planter on Efate, 
had stolen his boat in order to make their way home. While 
passing Makura, they were induced by the natives to go ashore — 
and forthwith were murdered and eaten. The Chief of Makura, 
on whose order this horrid deed was committed, was the very man 
whose mutilated body we had found in the surf at Efate. Thus 
the act was an act of revenge. 

A. P. Rice, referring specifically to the natives of the New 
Hebrides, states that the body of killed or captured enemies 
were dressed for the ovens with the least possible delay after 
they were brought in to the villages, and served with yams by 
way of embellishment. The blacker the flesh, he was informed, 
the more palatable it is held to be by the cannibals, and 
certainly black flesh was infinitely preferred by them to that of 
white men. Among these natives, as among others already 
considered, the term ‘fish’ is habitually used to describe a 
human body brought in for consumption. 

Opinion seems to vary in regard to the Solomon Islands. 
R. H. Codrington, writing at the turn of the century, actually 
states that the practice of cannibalism has “recently extended 
itself” there. The older natives, he says, told him that human 
flesh never used to be eaten except in the form of a sacrifice, and 
that even as a sacrificial ceremony this was merely something 
introduced “from islands to the west” — presumably New 
Guinea. Native tribes occupying the coast were still relatively 
free from the practice, but most of them stated that, far inland, 
cannibalism would be found. 

It was, Codrington declared, a regrettable fact that it was 
the young Solomon Islanders, rather than the old, who had 
become addicted to cannibalism in recent years. They 
habitually feasted on the bodies of men slain in battle, which, 
they said, was a practice of the natives of the island of San 


Cristoval. There, they assured Codrington, the tribesmen 
habitually killed for the sole purpose of obtaining human flesh 
for consumption; and they killed in sufficient quantities to be 
able to sell the flesh among other tribes. 

On Leper’s Island, it appeared, human flesh is still devoured. 
But there the brave enemy is not devoured; rather it is the 
murderer, or someone who has brought hatred down upon him 
among his fellow tribesmen or neighbouring tribesmen. He 
is eaten in anger and scorn, after being cooked like a pig, and 
the men, women and older boys eat of his flesh — as a gesture, 
rather than to satisfy mere appetite. 

A. I. Hopkins, however, writing some thirty years later than 
Codrington, after spending a quarter of a century in the region, 
says: “The practice of cannibalism is virtually extinct. But 
there are plenty of old men still alive who have occasionally 
eaten human flesh, though very few — if any — youths. It is not 
a thing the average native cares to talk much about, or is now 
proud of, or attempts ever to justify.” The ‘old men’ Hopkins 
refers to may of course be the ‘young men’ of Codrington’s 
report some years earlier. 

But Hopkins challenges Codrington’s statement by observing 
that it was the Spaniards who first viewed cannibalism in the 
Solomons with horror. If this is indeed the fact, then the 
practice must have been estabhshed for a very long time 
indeed. “One of the Spaniards’ first experiences,” he says, 
“was the offer of a man’s leg in sign of friendship, and their 
rejection of it with gestures of loathing was to the natives a 
declaration of hostility and a spurning of their proffered 
peace-offering.’ ’ 

The bush folk in the larger islands, such as Mala, Guadal- 
canal and San Cristoval, Hopkins continues, were cannibals, 
though in Bugotu and Gela they were not. Victims were 
sometimes kept alive in the villages, ready to be killed and 
cooked when a festive occasion occurred. He adds : 

Men have told me how, as children, they were given bits from the 
feast ; sometimes, if they were reluctant and likely to refuse, they 
were told that it was pig’s flesh that they were being offered. 
Children were given such morsels that they might get some p)or- 
tion of the personal qualities of the victim — courage, strength, 
swiftness, or whatever it might be. Also, they thus shared in the 


mana of the victim’s tribe, and in the tribal sacrifice were thus 
pleasing to their spirits. 

In Mala, the coast people were never cannibals, so they say, and 
probably truly; though there may have been rare exceptions. 
But in the bush it was a not uncommon practice up to recent years. 
In 1905 or 1906 I came into close contact with a village where 
they had very recently eaten two men killed in a fight. A few 
years later, two women were captured and eaten near the 
Government Station. It was merely, I was told, as an act of 
defiance and a gesture of contempt on the part of some bush- 
rangers ‘ wanted ’ by the Government. 

Hopkins states that the tribe from which a member had been 
captured, or killed, and then devoured, lost all prestige. If the 
man was devoured, so also was his mana, which was inseparable 
in thought from the mana of the whole tribe. Thus their virtue 
was gone. “The best thing they could do, then,” Hopkins 
ends, “was to break up and disperse and lose themselves among 
friendly and allied tribes.” 

A woman missionary, Florence Coombe, writing of the same 
regions as Hopkins, and not many years earlier, mentions a 
priest who was working in San Cristoval and came upon a party 
of natives in the act of cooking an enemy. He wrote to her: 

My sense of disgust and indignation was great ; one felt inclined to 
upset the oven and its contents, but the thought occurred that he 
who did so would in all probability be the oven’s next occupant. 
They seemed to have no idea then of the white man’s horror, 
continuing to laugh and joke about their victim’s last struggles, 
and sticking his finger-joints in their hair among their combs. 

Florence Coombe goes on to remind us of “still another idea 
struggling thus repulsively — ^yet surely to our sight with a 
wonderful pathos — to realise itself”: 

A powerful chief who has long been dreaded and admired is slain 
in battle, and the yearning of all the men who were his enemies to 
obtain a portion of his spirit — that mana which is the secret of his 
valour and success — develops into an almost religious ceremony. 
A mouthful of the brave man’s flesh and blood is thought to 
convey his coveted power. 

It is typical of Florence Coombe’s thoughtful and sometimes 
inspired writing on this sordid subject that she can end her 
observations thus : “In this act of cannibalism we seem to detect 
the germ of a Divine Truth.” 


Desire for the mam, and fear of the mam, are both found 
among these islands. The Rev. George Brown, a missionary 
among the Melanesians, observed a curious custom which he 
reported back to his headquarters: 

A man who is cutting up a body will sometimes tie something over 
his mouth and nose during the operation in order to keep the 
spirit of the dead man from entering into him. For the same 
reason, when a body is being eaten, the doors of the huts are shut, 
and afterwards the people aU shout, blow horns, shake spears, etc., 
to frighten away the ghost of the man they have eaten. 

In the Shordands group of the Solomon Islands there is a small, 
rocky islet in the port to which the natives take any person they 
may capture, to kill him there. They do not like to kill anyone 
in the village, for fear of the spirit of the dead man making trouble 

Brown speculated much about the various motives underlying 
the cannibalism to be observed among these Melanesian islands. 
He came to the conclusion that, in the main, cannibalism there 
was “generally a semi-sacred rite, and in most cases practised 
to discharge an obligation to the spirits of the dead”. Very 
often, of course, this was inextricably associated with the motive 
of revenge. The family of a murdered man will obtain a 
portion of flesh from a member of the tribe to which the murder 
belonged. They return with the flesh, cut it into portions and 
distribute them among the family and close relatives of the 
murdered man. At a given signal they devour these portions 
of flesh while gathered in the man’s hut, and a special portion 
of the flesh is offered ceremonially on a kind of altar built on a 
dead tree, called the ragau, which has been brought to the hut 
— this being an offer to the spirit of the murdered man. 

Thus (says Brown) they have now discharged all obligations to the 
spirit of the murdered man. They have provided him with food, 
finishing up by giving him a portion of flesh from a man of the 
vMage from which the slayer came. Now they want to get rid of 
him. They therefore pull up the ragau and ceremonially throw it 
away in the direction of the village from which the murderer 
came; after this, they let the murdered man’s hut collapse in 

Brown states that there is always a clear distinction made, 
among these people, between a man murdered or killed in 
battle, and a man who has died from any other cause. But 


there is no doubt in his mind that the principal reason for 
cannibahsm among the tribes with whom he had contact was 
that of obUgation towards a dead relative. His opinion was 
confirmed for him in a conversation he reports between himself 
and a tribesman, who spoke as follows : “ Suppose my brother 
is killed by Outam (a neighbouring tribe) : by and by I hear of 
some Outam man killed by another tribe. I go and buy a 
piece of the body, and place it in my dead brother’s house as an 
offering to him.” He adds that in some parts of the islands a 
man will not bathe or wash until his revenge is completely 
satisfied. The Kababaia, for instance, ate the hair, the intes- 
tines, and even the excrement, of a man from a village who had 
killed some of their relatives. 

In general, he adds, where cannibalism is fully recognised, all 
parts of the victim’s body would be eaten. . . . 

But the hands and breasts of women were esteemed the choice 
parts. Some of the bones were kept to be used as weights on the 
ends of spears. Skulls were put on a dead branch of a tree and 
placed either on the beach or near the hut of the person who had 
killed the former owners. On the piece of land on which I lived 
in Port Hunter there were seven of these ghastly objects at a short 
distance from my house. I wanted to get rid of them, but judged 
it expedient to leave them alone, for fear the people might be 
angry if I took them down, and so replace them by putting my 
own skull in their place. 

It is perhaps a testimony (if not a tribute) to the implacability 
of these islanders, and their reluctance to forgo their traditional 
practices, that the Rev. George Brown, D.D., Melanesian 
missionary, like the unnamed priest in San Cristoval whose 
comment was quoted by Florence Coombe, is less willing to 
take risks than, say, some of the courageous missionaries quoted 
in connection with the Fijian Islanders! 

A. P. Rice gives some grim details about cannibalistic prac- 
tices in the most south-easterly of this whole long necklace of 
islands constituting Melanesia, the one that approaches most 
nearly to the North Island of New Zealand. This is New 

Here (he writes) the women of the tribes used to pick out the best- 
covered corpses on the field of battle and dress them for the ovens 
while the warriors were still engaged in killing others. Heated 
stones were thrown into makeshift ovens on the very fringe of the 


battlefield so that there need be no delay in feasting once the 
victory was won. . . , 

Incidentally, he does not explain what happened when, as 
must often have been the case, the tide of battle turned. Did 
the ultimate victors utilise the ovens which the women of the 
defeated side had so optimistically prepared, and roast in them 
the bodies of the men who had expected to triumph over them? 
If so, it was a nice example of ‘the biter bit’. 

In New Caledonia (Rice continues) it was the hands that were 
considered the choicest portions, and these by prescriptive right 
became the portion of the tribal priests. These would follow the 
warriors, and the women of the warring tribe, and take up posi- 
tions in the rear of the battle. So important was it to them that 
they, and they alone, should be given the hands of the enemies 
slain in battle that they would actually fast rather than accept 
anything inferior. 

On this island, too, there was no prohibition against women 
partaking of human flesh. Nor was there any tabu against the 
eating of the corpse of a chief. On the other hand, if the corpse 
of a chief was on offer, it was obligatory that every man, woman 
and even small child must receive at least a mouthful. Another 
important tabu on this island concerned the corpses of women. 
If by any chance the body of a woman happened to be included in 
the feast, then however far demand exceeded supply, the torso 
must be cast away and only the arms and legs divided into 

Possibly because the cluster of islands known as New Ireland 
happens to be so near to New Guinea, where cannibalism 
lingered so long, and took so many horrible forms, the few 
authenticated records which we possess of the practice there 
make grisly reading. 

Hugh Hastings Romilly, Deputy Commissioner for the 
Western Pacific and Acting Special Commissioner for New 
Guinea itself, made an official report to his Government which 
makes scarifying reading, and the only consolation to be set 
against it is the fact that the report was published as long ago as 
1866. However, in view of what has been written about 
adjacent and neighbouring islands to the east and south-east of 
New Guinea, it is perhaps too much to hope that the practice 
died out there any sooner than it did elsewhere; if as soon. 

On my arrival in New Ireland (he writes) there was a great sound 
of merry-making and laughter. On the branches of a big tree in 


the centre of the clear space were six corpses, hanging by their 
necks, their toes just touching the ground. After a long pull at 
my flask, I sat down, with my back to the tree, and watched the 

They had made fires and were now boiling large pots of water. 
As soon as the water boiled, it was ladled out in coconut-sheUs and 
poured over the bodies one by one, after which they were carefully 
scrap>ed with bamboo knives. This was simply the process of 
scalding and scraping that every dead pig goes through after it 
has been killed. The hair of the head was carefully cut off and 
preserved, to adorn some future head-dress. 

The women aU this time were laughing and joking, discussing 
the points of each man. The whole thing was done in the most 
matter-of-fact way possible. When the bodies had been thor- 
oughly scraped, nothing more was done until the return of the 
men of the village. 

Then the business of the evening commenced. A mat of plaited 
palm-leaves was laid down, and one of the bodies was cut down 
from the tree. A very old man, apparendy the ‘father’ of the 
tribe, advanced into the centre of the crowd, where an open space 
had been left to give him room to conduct his operations. He 
had five or six bamboo knives in his hand, and with his thumbnail 
he was stripping the fibres off their edges, leaving them as sharp as 

The body was then placed on the mat, and ‘cleaned’ — some of 
the more perishable parts being thrown to the women as one 
throws scraps to the dogs. These were barely warmed at the fire 
before they were devoured. The head was then cut off and 
carefully placed on one side, on a leaf. 

In due course all six bodies were similarly prepared, and cut up 
into very small pieces. Each piece was carefully wrapped in a 
stout leaf and bound up tightly with sinnet. The thigh and shin- 
bones, however, were preserved intact. They are used for making 
handles for spears. 

When all six bodies had been cut up, the pile of little parcels 
wrapped in green leaves had assumed considerable dimensions. 
Then, the ovens were opened. The flesh was divided into as 
many parts as there were ovens, a little pile was put into each oven 
and covered over with hot stones. The bones and other parts 
which were not wanted were wrapped in mats and carried into 
the bush to be buried. 

The flesh in the ovens had to be cooked for three days, or till the 
tough leaves in which it was wrapped were nearly consumed. 
When taken out of the ovens, the method of eating it is as follows: 
the head of the eater is thrown back, somewhat after the fashion of 
an Italian eating macaroni; the leaf is opened at one end and the 
contents are then pressed into the mouth till the last are finished. 

As my interpreter remarked to me: “They cookum that fellow 


three day. By-um-by cookum he finish, that fellow aU same 

grease ! ” 

Romilly adds that for some days afterwards, when the very 
last scraps of human flesh have been finished, members of the 
tribe refrain from washing so as to preserve as long as possible 
the memory of their feast. 

It is perhaps not surprising, in view of the general attitude 
towards the killing and eating of their fellows that prevails 
almost throughout Melanesia, that myth and legend are rare. 
It is when the devouring of a human being is closely identified 
with sacrifice either to a tribal god or to a god of sun and rain 
that the legends are begotten and elaborated with the passing 
of time. This has been seen among the Aztecs and among the 
Kwakiutl Indians, to mention only two peoples out of many. 

But legend is not entirely absent in Melanesia, even though 
the general motive for killing and feasting on human flesh is 
either the lust for succulent meat or a desire to obtain revenge 
on some other party. The island of San Cristoval — to which 
so many other islanders point as the fans et origo of their own 
cannibalistic practices — has a typical example of such a myth : 
a myth which has the ‘fairy-tale’ quality found throughout 
Grimm, Perrault and Hans Andersen, in which the youngest of 
a family of brothers always comes out best in the end. And, 
characteristically, the myth involves the cooking of flesh. 

In olden times (runs the legend) there was a family of 
brothers who lived together on San Cristoval. The name of 
the eldest of these brothers was Warohunugaraiia. A day 
came when the brothers decided to build a canoe-house, and 
while they were at work, a new brother was born in the family, 
and named Warohunugamwanehaora. Immediately he was 
bom he grew up, and, with his umbilical cord stiU unsevered, 
but coiled round and round his neck, went off to see what his 
elder brothers were doing. 

His elder brothers were not at all pleased at the advent of 
their new brother, and bade him pack off and leave them alone. 
They were all the more resentful of him when they found that, 
even though he was younger by far than either of them, he 
could do all that they could do, and do it with much greater 
ease and much better altogether. 

They began therefore to hate him, and started thinking of 


ways in which they might rid themselves of him. First they 
dug a deep post-hole and told him to jump down into it and see 
what was there. When he did so, they dropped a huge hut- 
post down on top of him, and packed it well with earth and 
stones — only to find when they relaxed from their labours that 
their young brother was sitting perched on the very top of the 
pole, grinning down at them. 

They tried to force him to enter the open jaws of a giant 
clam, but their young brother easily tricked them, and actually 
made use of the giant clam as a canoe that got him back to his 
brothers’ canoe-house before they arrived themselves. They 
forced him to jump on to the back of a man-eating fish, telling 
him that it was a reef; the dreaded ulahu swallowed him whole, 
but their clever brother carved his way out and escaped. They 
made him cHmb a great tree, and by some magic of their own 
made the tree grow ever taller and taller as their young 
brother clambered down it. But he triumphed over them by 
forcing the tree to bend its topmost branch over until it almost 
touched the ground, when he could jump off with ease. 

Finally (the legend runs) the brothers got together and 
decided on a plan which they knew would put an end to him 
once and for all. “We will make a big oven, and throw him 
into it, and then cook him — and eat him,” they said. 

They made him help to dig the oven, made him collect 
masses of firewood and pile it on until the fire was very very hot. 
They watched to see that the stones in the bottom of the oven 
were red-hot. Then they told their brother to place leaves 
at the bottom. And as soon as he began to do this, they 
picked him up and threw him on to the leaves, which already 
were flaming high from the heat of the red-hot stones. Hastily 
they threw more stones down on top of their brother, every one 
of them hotter than the last, until he was quite covered by 
them. Then they sat back, laughing and watching the steam 
rise between the cracks in the great heap of red-hot stones, and 
talked gaily about the feast that was prepauing for them down 
in the bottom of the oven. 

Presently they heard something go ‘Crack!’ “That’s his 
eye,” said one brother, and rubbed his hands in anticipation. 
Then there was another ‘Crack!’ “That’s his other eye!” 
said the brother. “ He must be very nearly cooked by now.” 


“But let US make quite sure,” said the other. “Not till we 
touch the stones and find that they are quite cold to our hands 
shall we know that our brother is cooked and ready for us to 
eat him.” 

At last they felt that the time had come for them to open up 
the oven. When they did so, they found that the heat had 
been so fierce that even the stones themselves had changed 
their shape and were quite soft. But even as they removed the 
last of the stones from the very bottom of the oven, a voice close 
behind them said: “Am I quite cooked, dear brothers?” — and 
there was their youngest brother sitting on the stump of a tree 
watching them, and his umbilical cord was still coiled three 
times round his neck. 

Then their youngest brother got up from the tree-stump and 
came over to where Warohunugaraiia and his brother were 
standing on the edge of the oven, for by now he had begun to 
be annoyed at their continued efforts to get rid of him, especi- 
ally the last one. “You do nothing but try to harm me. 
Brother,” he said, “whereas I have done nothing to harm you. 
But now it is my turn at last.” 

Then he heated a very small oven, and took only a very small 
bundle of firewood, and heated it no more than to a gentle heat. 
He then said to his eldest brother: “Lie down in the oven. 
Brother,” and his brother, mocking him, did so. 

Then Warohunugamwanehaora swiftly piled the heated 
stones upon his eldest brother, and tied them together with his 
umbilical cord in a knot that no one could possibly unloose. 
After that, he sat with his second brother, and waited and 
watched for a little while, for just three days, before taking 
away the stones. And there lay Warohunugaraiia, cooked 
exactly as meat should be cooked, neither too much nor too 
little. And Warohunugamwanehaora and his second brother 
together feasted upon him, leaving not one morsel of flesh how- 
ever small upon his bones. 

So runs the legend of the three brothers of San Cristoval, 
cited by the islanders to explain — if not to justify — their addic- 
tion to the practice of cannibalism: what was instilled into 
them by their ancestors, they maintain, is a custom that they 
do right to follow. 



Polynesia — the ‘Many Islands’ — in general seems to 
have been less riddled by cannibalism than the islands large 
and small lying to the west of the International Date Line. 
Samoa, Tonga (or the Friendly Islands), the Marquesas, the 
Society Islands, to mention only the main groups that he south 
of the Equator in this vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean that 
separates Chile and Peru in the east from Austraha in the west, 
all show signs and symptoms of the past existence of the practice, 
but in the main it certainly began to die out among those 
islands long before the process began in Melanesia. 

The Samoans, in defence of the existence of the practice in 
the past, tell the legend which, like similar legends ‘justifying’ 
the practice among other tribes, involves a mythical being 
whose influence was maintained down the generations. 

In their case it was a mythical cannibal deity somewhat 
reminiscent of the Kwakiutl Indians’ Baxbakualanuxsiwae. 
This carmibal’s name was Maniloa, and he dwelt in a deep 
ravine through which travellers had to pass between settlement 
and settlement. He had built a spidery bridge of plaited lianas 
across the ravine at the very threshold of his lair. Every time 
a traveller reached the centre of the bridge, Maniloa would 
emerge from hiding, give a mighty wrench to the lianas that 
composed the bridge, and the luckless traveller would be cata- 
pulted through the air, to drop on the cannibal’s doorstep. So 
great was the power of Maniloa’s roaring voice which accom- 
panied his seizing of the bridge, say the Samoans, that waterfalls 
leapt fi’om the mountainsides and trees were uprooted. 

The cannibal devoured his victims whole, without waiting to 
chop them up, and after a time the Samoans gathered together 
and tracked h i m to his lair, by-passing the spidery bridge and 
descending upon him from the mountainside. By setting upon 
him while he slept, they succeeded in killing him. But — they 



add in explanation of the practice of eating human flesh which 
they admit survived until comparatively recently — in doing so, 
the giant cannibal’s spirit entered into them, and for ever 
afterwards they, like him, killed human beings and made 
banquets of their flesh. 

The Rev. George Brown came across a variant of the 
myth. The Samoans told him that there had been an old 
devil named Tupuivao who lived at Apolima. His custom was 
to string a piece of sinnet across a track that passed near his 
cave, and to tie one end of the sinnet to his big toe. As soon as 
he was awakened from sleep or rest by a jerk at his toe, he knew 
that a traveller had passed that way. He immediately rushed 
out and clubbed the traveller to death and ate him whole. 
Brown adds that this legend, in addition to ‘justifying’ the 
tradition of cannibalism in Samoa, is the origin of a popular 
Samoan saying applied to anyone who has just escaped danger 
by a narrow margin: ‘Faafetai ua to i tm apolima'. 

Brown refers to the Samoans as a ‘superior’ race, and indeed 
there is much evidence that this was true. He found no 
evidence that the Samoans ate human flesh, as the Fijians did, 
for the sheer gratification of appetite. On the other hand, he 
found little or no evidence that cannibalism among the Samoans 
was part of a sacrificial ceremony. Human flesh was eaten 
during periods of famine, and Brown mentions one such period 
in the second half of the nineteenth century, when strangers 
were killed and eaten to stave off hunger. 

But there is a relic of the practice stiU to be seen. Brown 

When a group of Samoans went to beg pardon for any offence, 
they bowed down in front of the offended chief’s house, and each 
man held in his hand a small bundle of firewood, some leaves, 
stones, and earth. These were symbolic of the deepest humilia- 
tion, and meant: “Here we are, the people who have so deeply 
sinned. And here are the stones, the firewood and leaves and 
earth to make the oven in which you can cook us, and eat us, if it 
be your will.” In most cases the offended chief would come out 
of his house with a fine mat in his hand, which he would give to the 
suppliants, ‘to cover their disgrace*. 

Brown adds that if proof is needed that cannibalism was 
regularly practised in Samoa, it lies in the fact that the Samoan 


language has a word for it : faiaso. They say that this was the 
name of a famous chieftain among them who claimed to have 
devoured the most desirable portions of a human being every 
day of his adult life. Parallel evidence, he says, lies in the fact 
that there is the widespread custom of using terms of abuse 
mentioning some parts of the human body — with the stated 
wish that someone might come along and devour them. 
“Sometimes, too,” he adds, “to show their satisfaction at a 
victory over a deceased foe, his eye or tongue was taken out and 
placed in readiness on a bread-fruit leaf used as a plate.” 

A. P. Rice states emphatically that cannibalism in Samoa 
never reached the depths of depravity which it held in the Fiji 
Islands. Human flesh was eaten by way of revenge. He 
quotes a statement by someone who was acquainted with 
Samoa a hundred years before, to the effect that cannibalism 
there was restricted to the bodies of men slain in battle, and the 
only exceptions were in times of severe famine. He admitted, 
however, that when such times came along, Samoan chiefs 
deliberately went to war, tribe against tribe, to procure what 
they considered to be ‘legitimate’ food. It was considered a 
deep disgrace when a human being was captured and killed 
for consumption, and tribes were careful to bury the bones of 
their own dead in pits beneath the floors of their huts — for 
even to have the bones stolen by another tribe would bring 
disgrace that could hardly be lived down. 

The Tonga Islands, though they are still nearer to Fiji than 
Samoa, and might therefore be expected to have come under 
Fijian influence, are generally reported to have been almost 
entirely clear of cannibalism. Captain Cook, during his 
second and greatest voyage, which began in 1772 and ended 
three years later after his discovery of the Melanesian islands of 
New Caledonia, declared that cannibalism was unknown there, 
except in cases of acute famine. It was he who gave them the 
name, the Friendly Isles. The story is told that when, after a 
skirmish, a party of Tongan warriors returned with some 
prisoners, and cooked and ate portions of their bodies, as they 
had heard that other tribes were accustomed to do, the 
remainder of their tribe boycotted them. 

Some later voyagers stated that a cult of cannibalism had 
recently begun to show itself — among the younger warriors 


only, however. They admitted, when pressed, that they had 
been incited to do this by what the Fijians did. They declared 
that by eating human flesh they were asserting their manliness 
and giving strength to their fighting qualities. 

When the Tongans did eat human flesh, they were careful to 
cleanse and purify it by washing it in the sea; the bodies were 
disembowelled before being spitted and roasted over fires. 
Alternatively, the bodies were cut up into small portions, 
wrapped in plantain-leaves and baked or roasted on hot stones. 

There is an interesting eye-witness account of cannibalism 
in the Tonga Islands which was reported by one William 
Mariner to a doctor named John Martin. It is interesting not 
only because of its vivid detail, but because it bears out what 
has been said about the instinctive reluctance of the Tongans to 
indulge in the eating of human flesh until the Fiji Islanders 
brought their powerful influence to bear on them. Martin 
was a chance-met acquaintance of Mariner, a man who himself 
had lived on the various Tonga Isles for many years. 

The doctor states emphatically that the Tongans ought not to 
be considered essentially as cannibals — in spite of Mariner’s 
accoimt of a skirmish and its grisly results. “Far from its 
being a general practice,” he says, “when some tribesmen have 
returned from a foray, and it is known to others in their village 
that they have indulged in such inhuman practices, most per- 
sons who know of it, particularly the women, avoid them. 
They call out to them: 'la-whe moe ky-tangata!' This means: 
‘ Keep off! You are eaters of human flesh ! ’ ” 

William Mariner, whose story Martin quotes, became 
involved in inter-tribal skirmishing some time in the early 
nineteenth century, perhaps fifty years after Captain Cook’s 
visit. It is very clear from what he has to say that whether or 
not cannibalism existed in Cook’s day, it did exist in Mariner’s. 

He was with one of the Tongan tribes, and reports that the 
warriors kept on falling into cleverly concealed pits, called 
lovosas, at the bottom of which sharpened bamboo stakes were 
set. Mariner himself fell into one of these pits, and was rescued 
in the nick of time by the warriors nearest to hand. . . . 

While this was going forward, a Hapai chief, at some distance 
from his friends, met another Tongan chief under the same cir- 


cumstances. They immediately engaged with their clubs. One, 
however, being soon disarmed, and the other having broken his 
club, they fought with their fists; till at last, so weak that they 
could not strike, they grappled with each other and fell to the 
ground. The Tonga chief, incapable of injuring his antagonist in 
any other way, got his fingers into his mouth, but the other 
gnawed them terribly. 

The Hapai men returned with about fifteen prisoners. Some 
of the younger chiefs, who had contracted the Fiji habits, proposed to 
kill the prisoners and then roast and eat them. The proposal 
was readily agreed to : by some because they like this sort of diet, 
by others because they wanted to try it, thinking it manly and 
warlike to do so. 

Some of the prisoners were soon dispatched. Their flesh was 
cut up into small portions, washed with sea-water, wrapped up in 
plantain-leaves, and roasted under hot stones. Two or three of 
them were also baked whole, the same as a pig. 

The carcass was rubbed over with the juicy substance of the 
banana-tree, after which it was thrown for a few minutes on the 
fire. Then, when it was warm, it was scraped with mussel-shells 
or knives, and then washed. It was next laid on its back, when 
the cook cut open the throat and drew forth the windpipe and 
gullet, passed a skewer behind them, and tied a string tight roimd 
the latter, afterwards to be divided. 

He then cut a circular portion from the belly, from four to six 
inches in diameter, and drew forth the entrails, separating the 
attachments either by force or by the use of bamboo. The dia- 
phragm was then divided, and the gullet, windpipe, contents of 
the chest, stomach and liver, were all drawn away together, along 
with his bowels. From these, the liver was separated, to be baked 
with the carcass ; the remainder was washed and cooked over hot 
embers, to be shared out and eaten in the meantime. 

The whole inside of the carcass was next filled vtith hot stones, 
each wrapped in bread-fruit leaves, and all the apertures were 
closed up quickly, with plugs of leaves. The carcass was then 
laid, with the belly downwards, in a hole in the ground lined with 
hot stones, a fire having previously been made there for that pur- 
pose, but prevented from touching them by small branches of the 
bread-fruit tree. A few other branches were then laid across the 
back of the carcass, and plenty of banana-leaves strewn, or rather 
heaped, over the whole; upon which, again, a mound of earth was 
raised so that no steam could escape. The liver, as afore- 
mentioned, was first placed beside the carcass, and sometimes 
yams also. By these means, the carcass could very well be 
cooked in about half an hour. 

Martin, it must be remembered, was a doctor; this may 
perhaps accotmt for the loving detail he includes about the 


i 62 cannibalism and human sacrifice 

cutting-up and organising of the carcass ; the process of cooking 
which he describes is obviously based on the same principle as 
our modem pressure-cookers, and it will be noticed that the 
carcass is ready for distribution within half an hour. This 
contrasts strongly with the practice in New Ireland described 
by Romilly, where the period of cooking lasted for three days. 
Martin’s story comes shortly to an end : 

A few days now elapsed without any signs of the canoes from 
Hapai (Mariner had told him), and the distress of those who did 
not choose to eat human flesh was very great. Mr Mariner had 
been two days and a half without eating anything, when, passing 
by a hut where they were cooking something, he walked in, with 
the pleasing thought of getting something that his stomach would 
bear, even if it were only a piece of rat. 

On inquiry, he was told that they had got some pork, and a man 
offered him a piece of liver, which he eagerly accepted. He was 
raising it to his mouth when he saw by the smile on the counten- 
ance of the man that it was human liver. Overcome by disgust, 
he threw it into the man’s face, who only laughed and asked him 
if it was not better to eat good meat than die of hunger. . . . 

The Marquesas, a group of South Pacific islands belonging 
to the French, and a long way to the north-east of the main 
Polynesian groups, had a bad reputation for cannibalism. 
Hermann Melville, author of Moby Dick, was a captive on the 
islands for several months in the middle of the last century. 
He states that it was quite evident that the Marquesan tribes- 
men knew that cannibalism was severely Crowned upon by 
white men, and would go to some lengths to conceal their 
practices, rather than come into open conflict with them. But 
they had no intention of giving up those practices for all that. 

During his enforced sojourn there, Melville one day saw the 
return of a war party, who brought home with them a consider- 
able number of prisoners. Celebration of the victory, he says, 
began almost immediately; but he himself, though he says that 
otherwise he was being leniendy treated, was kept rigorously 
away from the place where the ceremony was being prepared. 
He knew, however, from the sound and rhythm of the tribal 
drum-beating, what was afoot. It was, he reports, a very 
special feast, at which only tribal chiefs and priests were 

On the day following the feast he found himself once more 


free to wander about as he chose. He went in the direction 
from which the drum-beating had seemed to come to him. 
And there, on the unmistakable scene of the orgy, he saw a 
large wooden vessel that looked as much as anything like an 
upturned canoe. Peering beneath it, stealthily, he saw heaped 
together what he describes as a tangle of fresh human bones. 

It was (says the anthropologist, A. P. Rice) considered a great 
triumph among the Marquesans to eat the body of a dead man. 
They treated their captives with very great cruelty. They broke 
their legs to prevent them from attempting to escape before being 
eaten, but kept them alive so that they could brood over their 
impending fate. 

Their arms were broken so that they could not retaliate in any 
way against their maltreatment. The Marquesans threw them 
on the ground and leaped on their chests so that their ribs were 
broken and pierced their lungs, so that they could not even voice 
their protests against the cruelty to which they were submitted. 
Rough ptoles were thrust up through the natural orifices of their 
bodies and slowly turned in their intestines. Finally, when the 
hour had come for them to be prepared for the feast, they were 
spitted on long poles that entered between their legs and emerged 
from their mouths, and dragged thus at the stem of the war canoes 
to the place where the feast was to be held. 

With this tribe, as with many others, the bodies of women were 
in great demand. Very often a man who was condenmed to be 
killed and eaten could be visited by his relatives, always naked 
and painted black. There are records of cases where the relatives 
have volunteered to be killed and eaten in their stead, but it is 
probable that the bodies of these self-sacrificing individuals 
merely constituted an additional course when the time came. 

Rice remarks on the curious fact that the tribesmen in the 
Society Islands, who are the Marquesans’ nearest neighbours, 
have given no sign of having been addicted to cannibalism; 
indeed, he says, “they look upon cannibalism with horror”. 
He offers no explanation of this, and it is not easy to find one. 
The islands are near enough to the Marquesans to be in contact 
with those fierce tribes ; and the Fijians had the reputation for 
wide travel among the archipelagos, and must surely have 
reached their shores. Even if this was not the case, tribesmen 
from other groups of islands between Fiji zmd the Society 
Islands, will surely have spread stories of these practices; and 
primitive peoples are notoriously imitative. 

He makes no reference whatsoever to a far-flimg outpost of 


Polynesia, the tiny, almost legendary, island known as Easter 
Island. This Hes more than two thousand miles to the west of 
Chile — to which it belongs; but even though it is so far out in 
the Pacific Ocean, it is stiU remote from the main groups of 
islands constituting Polynesia: a lump of volcanic rock perhaps 
fifty square miles in extent, famous for the enormous figures 
Ccuved out of the lava that covers so much of the island. 

Alfred Metraux, the distinguished French anthropologist and 
scientist, in a book published as recently as 1957, explodes a 
good many of the myths which have surrounded Easter Island, 
particularly in regard to its ‘statues’. He also has something 
to say on the subject of cannibalism as practised there: 

Victoria Rapahango told us that in her youth she had known the 
last cannibis on the island. They were the terror of little 
children. Every Easter Islander knows that his ancestors were 
kai-tangata — ‘man-eaters’. Some make jokes about it; others 
take offence at any allusion to this custom, which has become in 
their eyes barbarous and shameful. According to Father 
Roussel, cannibalism did not disappear from Easter Island until 
after the introduction of Christianity. Shortly before this, the 
natives are said to have eaten a number of men, including two 
Peruvian traders. Cannibal feasts were held in secluded spots, 
and women and children were rarely admitted. The natives 
told Father Zumbohm that the fingers and toes were the choicest 
morsels. The captives destined to be eaten were shut up in huts in 
front of the sanctuaries. There they were kept until the moment 
when they were sacrificed to the gods. 

But the Easter Islanders’ cannibalism was not exclusively a 
religious rite, or the expression of an urge to revenge; it was also 
induced by a simple liking for human flesh that could impel a 
man to kill for no other reason than his desire for fresh meat. 
Women and children were the principal victims of these inveterate 
cannibals. The reprisals that followed such crimes were all the 
more violent because an act of cannibalism committed against a 
member of a family was a terrible insult to the whole family. As 
among the ancient Maori, those who had taken part in the meal 
were entitled to show their teeth to the relatives of the victim, and 
say: “Your flesh has stuck between my teeth.” Such remarks 
were capable of rousing those to whom they were addressed to a 
murderoxis rage not very different from the Malay amok. 

Metraux, who was reporting on the scientific expedition of 
which he had been a member in the 1930’s, describes the Easter 
Islanders’ mode of fighting. Hostile tribes, he says, provoked 


one another with violent insults, and commenced battle by 
throwing stones. . . . 

In the hands of the Easter Islanders these were a redoubtable 
weapon, of which they made frequent use. The hail of stones 
was followed by a volley of javelins, whose obsidian points tore 
the skin and opened gaping wounds. After this exchange of 
missiles, the warriors attacked with the litde, short flat club 
identical with the New Zealand patu. Some, however, preferred 
the long club with sharp edges. 

Blows fell thick and fast until one group, having lost some of its 
warriors, fled from the field. The victors rushed in pursuit of the 
vanquished, slaying or taking prisoner those who fell into their 
hands. After this, they entered the enemy’s territory, where they 
burnt down the huts and laid waste the crops. Women and 
children were led into captivity. 

If earlier battles had exacerbated passions and created a spirit 
of revenge, the prisoners were tortured. Their skulls were 
broken with blows from an axe, they were buried alive, or trampled 
upon until their bellies burst and their entrails spilled out. To 
escape these reprisals, the vanquished fled across the island and 
hid in caves. Traditional legends of the island relate the out- 
come of these batdes in almost stereotyped sentences: “They 
were cut in pieces. The vanquished, seized with panic, took 
refuge in caverns, where the victors sought them out. The men, 
women and children who were captured were eaten.” If a 
high-ranking chief figured among the prisoners, he was not only 
eaten, but his skull was burnt, to inflict the supreme outrage on 
his memory and his family. 

Metraux ends his account of this mode of warfare with the 
comment: “The attraction of these military expeditions was 
rendered even greater by the prospect of banquets consisting 
of the corpses of the enemy. After all,” he adds, perhaps by 
way of extenuation, “Man was the only large mammal whose 
flesh was available.” 

Before leaving Polynesia, brief mention must be made of the 
Hawaiian Islands, a group of some twenty or more volcanic 
islands lying far to the north of the Equator, that is in the North, 
not the South Pacific. Their capital is, of course, Honolulu. 
Few, if any. Pacific islands are better known, or have had 
more written about them, than these. The American Naval 
Base of Pearl Harbour hes in their midst; the main Pacific air 
routes meet at Honolulu, and the great Pacific shipping routes. 
Captain Cook discovered these islands in 1778; and it was in 



Hawaii that Captain Cook, only a year later, met his tragic 

Judge Fomander of Honolulu stated categorically that the 
Hawaiians felt deep abhorrence for the practice of cannibalism, 
which they knew to exist elsewhere in the Pacific. Yet it was 
in Hawaii that Cook died, and the manner of his death bore 
striking resemblances to the very practices the Hawaiians 
claimed to abhor. There have been a number of versions of 
this, of which the circumstantial account by Captain King 
is probably the most reliable: 

About 8 o’clock, it being very dark, a canoe was heard paddling 
towards the ship. There were two persons in the canoe, and when 
they came on board they threw themselves at our feet, and 
appeared exceedingly frightened. After lamenting with abund- 
ance of tears the loss of ‘Orono’ — as the natives called Captain 
Cook — one of them told us that he had brought us a part of the 

He then presented to us a small bundle wrapped up in cloth, 
which he had brought under his arm. It is impossible to describe 
the horror which seized us on finding it a piece of human flesh 
about 9 or 10 pounds’ weight. This, he said, was all that re- 
mained of the body of ‘Orono’; the rest was cut to pieces, and 
burnt; but the head and all the bones, except what belonged to 
the trunk, were in the possession of Terreeoboo. What we were 
looking at had been allotted to Kaoo, the chief of the priests, to be 
made tise of in some religious ceremony. He said he had brought 
it as a proof of his innocence, and his attachment to us. 

Captain Cook, as far as can be ascertained from conflicting 
reports, had attempted to persuade a Hawaiian chief to accom- 
pany him back to his boat; the gesture had been tragically 



The density-of-population map of Australia shows at 
a glance that, with the exception of a fringe along the eastern 
seaboard, very narrow at the northern end but bulging shghtly 
around Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and a small bulge 
around Perth in the south-westernmost comer of the continent, 
practically the whole of its three mi lli on square miles of 
territory is occupied by fewer than five persons to the square 
mile. The total population is less than that of London; and of 
the eight million-odd, only 50,000 or so are aborigines surviving 
into the twentieth century. 

The aborigines, living much as Stone Age man lived, without 
permanent dwellings, without any but the most mdimentary 
knowledge of agriculture, are commonly called ‘Blackfellows’; 
they were in occupation of the habitable portions of Austraha 
long before Captain Cook discovered Botany Bay and, as it 
were, ‘put on the map’ a continent that had been tentatively 
touched upon by a Portuguese at the beginning of the seven- 
teenth century, and landed upon by William Dampier at the 
end of that century. 

They are at once a dangerous and a pitiful community, as 
any community must be that survives only against great odds; 
their habits and customs seem to have been less thoroughly 
investigated than those of many other primitive peoples in 
other parts of the world. But there is no doubt that canni- 
bahsm existed among them until recent times, and possibly in 
such dangerous areas as Arnhem Land, in the far north of 
Northern Territory, may exist to this day. Motives for the 
eating of human flesh, as elsewhere, are varied, and often 
closely intertwined. The need of sacrifice; the demands of 
magic; the desire for revenge: all these are present, as else- 
where; but in the case of the Blackfellows they are perhaps less 
clearly evolved and crystalhsed. 




Colin Simpson, writing of the Australian aborigine only five 
or six years ago, had this to say: 

The eating of human flesh was not practised by the Australian 
native to the extent that it was by the South Sea Islander. The 
term ‘cannibalism’ is usually taken to mean gorging on human 
flesh, and with relish; and that seems a valid description of the 
caimibalism of the Melanesian indigenes of New Caledonia, who 
appear to have regarded man-meat much as we regard the 
Sunday joint. Not all cannibalism is the same in piurpose. 

In hard summers, the new-born children were all eaten by the 
Kaura tribe in the neighbourhood of Adelaide, according to Dr 
McKinley. In 1933 I was able to talk to old men who had eaten 
human flesh. The chief of Yam Island described to me how he 
had eaten finely-chopped man-meat mixed with crocodile-meat, 
at his initiation. He added that it had made him sick. The 
purpose, as he put it, was “to make heart come strong inside”. 

In the Wotjobaluk tribe, a couple who already had a child 
might kill their new-born and feed its muscle-flesh to the other 
one to make it strong. The baby was killed ritually, by striking 
its head against the shoulder of its elder brother or sister. 

Human flesh-eating among many tribes was a sign of respect 
for the dead. At a Dieri burial, relatives received, in strict order 
of precedence, small portions of the body-fat to eat. “We eat 
him,” a tribesman said, “because we knew him and were fond of 
him.” But revenge cannibalism is typified in the custom of 
the Ngarigo tribe, who ate the flesh of the hands and feet of slain 
enemies, and accompanied the eating with loud expressions of 
contempt for the people killed. 

Simpson made reference to ‘initiation’. A Professor of 
Anthropology in the University of Sydney, A. P. Elkin, develops 
this aspect of cannibalism among the Australian aborigines. 
In Central and Western Australia, he says, the young men 
spend a good deal of their period of seclusion in pairs, so 
assisting one another to obtain food. . . . 

In nearly all tribes from the west to the east (he writes) and from 
the north to the south, at some part of the initiation series a blood 
rite is performed. It consists of anointing the newly initiated 
with arm-blood from the older men, or else giving them some of 
this to drink. The older men also anoint themselves, or each 
other, and drink blood. This blood is sacred; there is a secret 
name for it, and it is usually associated with some mythical hero’s 

It gives life, strength and courage, and so fits the candidates for 
the revelations that are to be made. At the same time it unites 
them to the elders of whose blood they have partaken; indeed. 


it does more : it unites them to the initiation-heroes, for the blood 
taken under such conditions is the hero’s, or ancestor’s, life, and 
so to drink it brings the initiated into the mythical world. A 
special song must be chanted while this blood is being drawn, and 
this changes it — consecrates it, as we would say — and gives it 
sacramental efficacy. 

Elkin goes on to remark that he has heard a missionary speak 
with loathing of this rite of blood-drinking. But he adds that 
such an attitude is surely unreasonable for a Christian, especi- 
ally one with strongly developed sacramental views. If, he 
says, we ourselves cannot tolerate blood drinking, then we 
might at least appreciate the symbolism, and recommend the 
substitution of some such liquid as wine — which, after aU, is 
our own practice. 

He goes on to speak of cannibalism among the aborigines in 
connection with burial rites noted among many of the Queens- 
land tribes, and others too: 

The body (he says) was dried over a fire or in the sun, after the 
internal organs had been removed through an incision and it had 
been packed, bound up and, usually, painted. It is then made 
up into a bundle, and is carried around by the mourners until their 
grief has been assuaged. It is finally disposed of by interment, 
cremation, or by being put inside a hollow tree. In some dis- 
tricts, the preparation is complicated by cannibalism, so that the 
bundle consists only of the bones, or the bones and the dried skin. 

Cannibalism (Elkin concludes) forms a ceremony, not only in 
coimection with mummification in parts of Queensland, but also 
precedes the exposure of the body on the tree-stage among other 
tribes. Parts of the body have to be eaten by prescribed relations. 
Practised in Queensland, as part of burial, cannibalism was con- 
sidered a most honourable rite, to be used only for persons of 
worth. It was, incidentally, a quick method of preparing the 
‘mummy’, the flesh being eaten instead of merely being dried in 
the sun or over a fire. 

A good deal of highly intelligent research into the customs 
and traditions of the AustraUan Blackfellow has been carried 
through, largely in the course of their duties, by members of 
the Australian Mounted Police and Patrol Officers in the 
Native Affairs Branch. Two of the former group, G. Home 
and G. Alston, paid especial attention to the customs of the 
Wonkongura tribe, in whose case, they say, cannibalism, though 
it existed, was not so much a general practice as a precaution 


against magic — and in one case to ensure a supply of food. 
The two motives are by no means necessarily unconnected. 

The first case (they report) was at Apawandinna, half way from 
Cowarie. A very fat Blackfellow chased an emu and became 
overheated in the chase, and died. The other Blackfellows were 
very worried over the death. They examined the man, but could 
not find anything to show as a cause of his death. He was a 
good-natured man, very popular with the tribe, so that it was 
unlikely that he had been ‘ boned ’ — a form of magic widely prac- 
tised among the Wonkonguru tribe. 

Finally, the old men of the tribe decided to cook the body. 
They cut it up and distributed it right round the camps of the 
tribe, which at that time extended from Killalpaninna to Birds- 
viUe in Queensland. The idea of the old men was that if the 
dead man had been ‘ boned ’, his flesh would poison the man who 
had ‘ boned ’ him, and anyone who was innocent would be pro- 
tected from such a death by eating a piece of him. I talked it over 
with one old man who had eaten it in order that the rest would not 
think him guilty of ‘ boning’ the dead man. He put it to me this 
way: “’Spose ’em me no eat ’em. ’Nother fella say. Him kill 
’em. Me eat ’em, then all right.” 

This is clearly ‘magic’: the magic of sudden death, and 
precaution against sudden death, as understood by the 
Blackfellows. The reference to ‘boning’, however, perhaps 
needs explanation. Home and Aiston put the matter thus: 

The pointing-bone is called by the Wonkonguru wirra garoo. It 
consists of a bone, or stick, having bands marked round it and a 
hair string stuck to one end. Each man makes the bones to his 
own liking, but of course he follows the general patterns that have 
been used possibly for centuries. The bands determine the life 
of the person aimed at, for as each is burnt, the man is supposed 
to get more sick; and when the burning reaches the last band, the 
man dies. 

The method of using a bone varies slightly. If a man has 
sufficient confidence in himself, he will seize the bone in his left 
hand with two fingers extended along it. He then takes up the 
hmr string with his right hand and pulls it tight against his right 
hip. Then, kneeling down, he points the bone towards his 
enemy. After he has sung a song, he covers the point of his bone 
with pitch to keep in the poison that has been ‘sung’ into it, and 
Ae man then waits until he hears that his enemy is ill. The bone 
in the meantime is buried in a hole in the sand and covered up 
with feathers. 

When the enemy becomes ill, the bone-pointer digs up his bone 
and bums about half an inch off its point. He then covers up the 


bum with more pitch, and again hides the bone. The sick man 
in the meantime, suspecting that he has been ‘boned’, steadily 
gets worse. His friends travel in all directions, searching for the 
man who is ‘ boning ’ him. Usually some man who is a general 
nuisance to the camps is finally setded upon as the one who is 
doing the ‘boning’, and then — unless he can get into sanctuary — 
he is killed, or at least very badly knocked about. 

The Blackfellows are very frightened of the bone magic, and it is 
impossible to persuade them that there is nothing in it. They 
distrust white men’s medicine because, they maintain, it is not 
jjowerful enough to cope with the poison of the bone. 

Home and Alston were reporting on the Australian abori- 
gines as they knew them thirty and more years ago. It would 
seem, from the few reliable reports that have come from the 
country in more recent years, that the mills of change grind 
very slowly indeed ; and perhaps this is inevitable. Australia 
is an enormously large territory; desert and wilderness and 
their inevitable concomitant of thirst — thirst that means death 
— make the prospect of travelling into the interior enough to 
daunt most men. Those who go there, go as a matter of duty; 
it is hard to think of anything in the nature of a mission, as 
ordinarily understood, among these roving tribes. 

Nevertheless, there have been officers who have looked upon 
their duties as something more than the fulfilling of the bare 
letter-of-the-law. Syd Kyle-Little must be one of these — as the 
pages of his recently published Whispering Wind reveal. He 
writes with understanding, even with affection, of the Black- 
fellow whom it was his duty to control when necessary, guide 
where possible. He clearly had an extraordinary flair for 
coming to terms with the natives, though he is under no illusion 
as to the danger involved in exercising any sort of authority 
over them : they are primitives of the primitives. . . . 

It appeared that a white man by himself on such a mission as 
mine might easily find himself wrapped in pandanus-leaves and 
roasting quiedy on the ashes of an Arnhem Land fire. “From 
well corroborated evidence, a form of cannibalism is still practised 
by three groups between the Blyth and Liverpool Rivers,” Gordon 
Sweeney, a Patrol Officer in the Native Affairs Branch, one of my 
predecessors, wrote. “The bodies of all except the children, old 
people, and the diseased are cut up after death, the bones taken 
out and the flesh cooked and eaten. There appears to be no 
special ceremony at the time, or ceremonial significance attached 
to this practice, at least among two groups, the Manbuloi and the 


Gumauwurrk. A third group, the Rauwarang, do not allow the 
children to eat. The bones are shordy afterwards handed to the 
relative who is to carry them at the usual Buguburrt corroboree, 
which under this name is practised throughout the social area. 
The reason given for the cannibal practice in all three groups is 
that the people think that eating human flesh will make them 
clever at hunting, at spearing kangaroos, finding wild honey, 
getting yams, etc.” 

Kyle-Little describes in his book a mission which he under- 
took in 1946, and the quotation which had made him think so 
hard came from a comment from one of his immediate 
predecessors. He continues thus : 

I wondered about Sweeney’s warnings of cannibalism. I had 
known the Australian aborigine for too long to believe that he was 
a blood-thirsty, man-eating savage. Provoked, he was savage. 
But I did not mean to be provocative. As for man-eating, I dis- 
covered later that this was only pardy true. The Liverpool 
River natives did not kiU men for food. They ate human flesh 
largely from superstitious beliefs. If they killed a worthy man in 
batde, they ate his heart, believing that they would inherit his 
valour and power. They ate his brain because they knew it 
represented the seat of his knowledge. If they killed a fast 
runner, they ate part of his legs, hoping thereby to acquire lus 

Kyle-Little — who uses as title for his book the name which 
the Blackfellows ultimately gave him, as a sign of their respect — 
completed his mission, and returned to write his very revealing 
book. If he encountered any cannibalism, it was not ‘ Whisper- 
ing Wind’ who was personally involved. And E. O. James, 
who has written so much on different aspects of cannibalism in 
so many different parts of the world, and with such acute 
perception of the distinctions, confirms what the Patrol Officer 
had had to say: “Among the native tribes of Australia, the 
bodies of those who fall in battle, honoured chiefs, and new- 
born infants, are frequently consumed to obtain their qualities, 
just as in the Torres Straits (which separate the northernmost 
territory of Australia from the southernmost part of New 
Guinea) the tongue and sweat of a slain enemy are imbibed to 
get his bravery.” 



The population of New Zealand is barely a quarter that 
of Australia, so the New Zealand Maori form a very much 
higher proportion of the total than the Austrahan Blackfellows 
do in their country, for there are some 50,000 of them still. 

The Maori are thought to have migrated to the North Island 
of New Zealand some hundreds of years ago — perhaps from 
Hawaii, perhaps from elsewhere. They may have drifted 
across the South Pacific, from island group to island group, in 
the course of centuries, absorbing some of the characteristics of 
the various tribes with whom they fought, and perhaps later 
temporarily settled down, as they did so. To judge from their 
fierceness, and the late survival of cannibalism among them, it 
would not be unfair to suggest that they absorbed more than a 
little of the Fiji Islanders’ traditions. It has been suggested 
that they may have originated in India or Central Asia, and 
have reached New Zealand by way of Malaya; but basically 
they are Polynesian, though generally speaking the savagery 
of their ways in the not-so-distant past would suggest Mela- 
nesian rather than Polynesian traditions. 

Elsdon Best, an authority on the Maori, is clearly puzzled by 
the deeply-ingrained habit of cannibalism of which he found so 
much evidence in the course of his researches. “How is it,” 
he asks, “that our Maori has become such a pronounced 
cannibal in these islands?” Rightly or wrongly, he attributes 
the origin of the Maori to the Society Islands, which, as we have 
already seen, were not a hotbed of cannibalism. “Was 
cannibalism, as a common custom, acquired by the Maori?” he 
asks. And adds: “The dreadful Maori custom — or at least 
occasional habit — of exhuming and eating buried human bodies 
was also a Fijian custom.” 

Captain Cook was horrified by the discovery of cannibalism 
in New Zealand when he was at work on the project of charting 



the eastern coastline of the islands in 1768 and the following 
year. His Journals are a fascinating, and very revealing, 
record of what awaited explorers in the latter end of the eigh- 
teenth century, and he would doubtless have been astounded 
to find that even a hundred and more years later the conditions 
he had known had not so greatly changed. Parts of his 
Journals deal with his voyage in his ship Endeavour, in which he 
visited the Society Islands and Tahiti before sailing further 
south to chart the eastern coasts of New Zealand and Australia. 
Tahitians who had voyaged with him were as sickened as he 
was by what they found. . . . 

Calm light airs from the north all day on the 23rd November 
hindered us from putting out to sea as intended. In the after- 
noon, some of the officers went on shore to amuse themselves 
among the natives, where they saw the head and bowels of a 
youth, who had been lately killed, lying on the beach, and the 
heart stuck on a forked stick which was fixed to the head of one of 
the largest canoes. One of the gentlemen bought the head and 
brought it on board, where a piece of the flesh was broiled and 
eaten by one of the natives, before all the officers and most of the 
men. I was on shore at this time, but soon after returning on 
board was informed of the above circumstances, and fotmd the 
quarter-deck crowded with the natives, and the mangled head, or 
rather part of it (for the under-jaw and lips were wanting), lymg 
on the taffrail. The skull had been broken on the left side, just 
above the temples, and the remains of the face had aU the appear- 
ance of a youth under twenty. 

The sight of the head, and the relation of the above circum- 
stances, struck me with horror and filled my mind with indignation 
against these cannibals. Curiosity, however, got the better of 
my indignation, especially when I considered that it would avail 
but little, and being desirous of becoming an eye-witness of a fact 
which many doubted, I ordered a piece of the flesh to be broiled, 
and^ brought to the quarter-deck, where one of the cannibals ate 
it with surprising avidity. This had such an effect on some of our 
jieople as to make them sick. Oedidee, the native who had 
embarked with us some time before, was so affected with the sight 
as to become perfectly motionless, and seemed as if metamor- 
phosed into a statue of horror. It is utterly impossible for art to 
describe that passion with half the force that it appeared in his 

Wben roused from this state by some of us, he burst into tears, 
continued to weep and scold by turns, told them they were vile 
men and that he neither was nor would be any longer their friend. 
He even would not suffer them to touch him. He used the same 


language to one of the gentlemen who cut off the flesh, and 
refused to accept or even touch the knife with which it was done. 
Such was Oedidee’s indignation against this vile custom; and 
worthy of imitation by every rational being. 

At four o’clock in the morning of the 24th November, we 
unmoored with an intent to put to sea; but the wind being at 
north and north-east without, and blowing strong puffs into the 
cove, made it necessary for us to he fast. While we were immoor- 
ing, some of our old friends came aboard to take their leave of us, 
and afterwards left the cove with all their effects; but those who 
had been out on the late expedition remained; and some of the 
gentlemen having visited them found the heart still sticking on 
the canoe, and the intestines lying on the beach; but the hver 
and lungs were now wanting. Probably they had eaten them 
after the carcass was aU gone. 

It would seem from this particular extract that Cook and his 
officers had got on to relatively easy terms with the ‘gentlemen’, 
as he so oddly refers to them, who gave these demonstrations of 
what was for them a normal practice. But it was not always 
such an easy relationship. Elsewhere in his Journals he recounts 
episodes where they were in very real danger. Danger, 
incidentally, of two kinds; neither of them pleasant to 
contemplate. . . . 

In this situation we were not above two cables’ length from the 
rocks, and here we remained in the strength of the tide, from a 
little after seven tiU near midnight. The sea broke in dreadful 
surf upon the rocks. Our danger was imminent and our escape 
critic^ in the highest degree ; from the situation of these rocks, so 
well adapted to catch unwary strangers, I call them ‘The Traps’. 

There was not a man aboard Endeavour who, in the event of the 
ship’s breaking up, would not have preferred to drown rather 
than be left to the mercy of the Maoris. For as Endeavour slowly 
circled the North Island, those few words spoken by the Maori 
boys — “Do not put us ashore there; it is inhabited by our 
enemies who will kill and eat us” — began to grow into a hideous 
reality. Yet even as fresh evidence came to light that these 
jieople were indeed cannibals, the ship’s company still refused to 
believe the truth their eyes told them. 

Tupia inquired if it was their practice to eat men, to which they 
answered in the aflirmative; but said that they ate only their 
enemies who were slain in battle. We now began seriously to 
believe that this horrid custom prevailed amongst them, for what 
the boys had said we had considered as a mere hyperbolical 
expression of their fear. But some days later some of our people 
found in the skirts of the wood, near a hole, or oven, three human 


hip-bones, which they brought on board: a further proof that 
these people eat human flesh. 

Not long afterwards, Cook and his men were witnesses of the 
gruesome sight of human beings gnawing human bones with 
an absolute lust, their hands and faces, as he said, smeared with 
blood while they picked fragments of human gristle from 
between their sharply filed teeth. 

At this sight (he writes) we were struck with horror, though it was 
only confirmation of what we had heard many times since we 
arrived upon the coast. As we could have no doubt but that the 
bones were human, neither could we have any doubt but that 
the flesh which covered them had been eaten. They were foimd 
in a provision-basket; the flesh that remained appeared mani- 
festly to have been dressed by fire; and in the gristles at the end 
were the marks of the teeth which had gnawed them. 

Captain Cook was something more than a fine and 
courageous sailor and navigator: he was an observer with a 
scientific turn of mind. So, too, were some of his officers, men 
such as Banks and Solander, for instance. Sinking their own 
personal feelings, they av£iiled themselves of every opportunity 
for studying the natives and their customs, and the result, as 
shown in Cook’s carefully kept Journals, is a fine piece of report- 
age. The account of what they saw, in its detail and accuracy, 
has hardly been surpassed even by the anthropologists and 
others who came much later on the scene, here and elsewhere. 

This (Cook continues) was but a small Maori family, not more 
than a dozen at most. Yet, upon inquiry who the man was 
whose bones we had found, they told us that about five days be- 
fore, a boat belonging to their enemies came into the bay, with 
many persons on board, and that this man was one of the seven 
whom they had killed. 

Since only a basketful of bones was left by the time Cook and 
his officers came on the scene, less than a week later, the family 
had disposed of one whole carcass at least between them every 
day. Banks, apparently, risked a challenge: were they really 
cannibals, or were these just remnants of some bodies that had 
been disposed of otherwise? Cook adds, dispassionately: 
“One of the cannibals thereupon bit and gnawed the human 
arm which Banks had picked up, drawing it through his mouth 
and showdng by signs that the flesh to him was a dainty bit. 


Tupia carried on the conversation: ‘Where are the heads?’ he 
asked. ‘ Do you eat them, too? ’ ‘ Of the heads,’ answered an 
old man, ‘we eat only the brains.’ Later he brought on 
board Endeavour four of the heads of the seven victims. The 
hair and flesh were entire, but we perceived that the brains had 
been extracted. The flesh was soft, but had by some method 
been preserved from putrefaction, for it had no disagreeable 
smell.” Cook adds that, after a great deal of haggling as to 
price, the Maori were induced by Banks to sell them one of the 
heads; but they would part with no more than one. 

Later, having had more than ample opportunity to investi- 
gate and draw his conclusions about the cannibahstic practices 
of the Maori, with whom his own relations were so unusual. 
Cook makes his statement : 

This custom of eating their enemies slain in battle (for I firmly 
believe they eat the flesh of no others) has undoubtedly been 
handed down to them from earliest times; and we know it is not an 
easy matter to wean a nation from their ancient customs, let them 
be ever so inhuman and savage; especially if that nation has no 
manner of connection or commerce with strangers. For it is by 
this that the greatest part of the human race has been civilised; 
an advantage which the New Zealanders, from their situation, 
never had. 

One of the arguments they made use of to Tupia, who fre- 
quently expostulated with them against this custom, was that 
there could be no harm in killing and eating the man who would 
do the same by them if it was in his power. For, said they, “ Can 
there be any harm in eating our enemies, whom we have killed in 
battle? Would not those very enemies have done the same to 
us? ” I have often seen them listen to Tupia with great attention, 
but I never found his arguments have any weight with them. 
When Oedidee and several of our people showed their abhorrence 
of it, they only laughed at them. 

Captain Cook was writing in the ’70’s of the eighteenth 
century. Dr Felix Maynard, writing not much more then a 
hundred years ago, reports the case of Touai, a New Zealand 
chief who was brought to London in 1818 and resided there for 
a long time, becoming “almost civilised”; but — 

He confessed in his moments of nostalgia that what he most re- 
gretted in the country from which he was absent was the feast of 
human flesh, the feast of victory. He was weary of eating 
English beef; he claimed that there was a great analogy between 



the flesh of the pig and that of man. This last declaration he 
made before a sumptuously served table. The flesh of women 
and children was to him and his fellow-coimtrymen the most 
delicious, while certain Maoris prefer that of a man of fifty, and 
that of a black rather than that of a white. His countrymen, 
Touai said, never ate the flesh raw, and preserved the fat of the 
rump for the purpose of dressing their sweet potatoes. 

Maynard adds a piece of gratuitous information. Some 
missionaries had expressed their fear of being eaten. A New 
Zealand chief to whom they were speaking sought to put their 
minds at rest. Maoris, he told them, if they were wanting a 
taste of human flesh would be far more likely to seek it among 
their foes in neighbouring tribes because black men had a far 
more agreeable flavour than white men, when cooked. This, 
he said, was due to the fact that the whites seem to take a lot 
of salt with the food they eat, while Maoris take practically 
none at all. 

There is not a bay, not a cove, in New Zealand (Maynard 
reported) which has not witnessed horrible dramas, and woe to 
the white man who falls into the New Zealanders’ hands. When 
the victor eats his foe after the combat, he beheves he eats not only 
his body but also his soul. It is an outrage to eat the body; and 
it is an advantage to eat the waidoua — the soul of the vanquished — 
because this is then assimilated with one’s own. This superstition 
is all-powerful in wartime. Usually, after a fight they commence 
by devouring the bodies of the oldest and most courageous war- 
riors, those most completely tattooed, leaving the corpses of the 
younger men aside, those that were novices in warfare, even 
though their flesh might be more appetising. Thus, before all, 
the victors value the assimilation, the appropriation, of the life 
and courage of the most celebrated warriors, however thin and 
Jleshless they may be. 

Maynard adds a brief comment here; one which we have 
already seen made by other investigators: “Considered from 
this point of view, caimibalism is almost excusable among 
barbarous peoples.” He then goes on to describe the details of 
the feasts: 

New Zealanders particularly esteem the brain, and reject the 
remainder of the head; but an English missionary has reported 
that Pomare, a chief of the Bay of Islands, ate six entire heads. 
Chiefs heads are usually dried and perfectly preserved by an 
ingenious process. When a tribe wishes to make peace, it offers 


the vanquished tribe, as proof of its good intentions, the heads of 
the chiefs the others have lost. These heads are also articles of 
commerce in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands. 

The bones of chiefs are very carefully gathered up, and from 
them they construct knives, fish-hooks, arrow-points, and points 
for lances and javelins, as well as ornaments for the toilet. I 
possess some fish-hooks pointed with very sharp fragments of 
human bone. Sometimes they detach the hand and the forearm 
and dry them at a fire of aromatic herbs. The muscles and 
tendons of the fingers contract so that the whole forms a hook, 
which they place in their huts for the suspension of baskets and 
weapons. I have seen several of these used as clothes-pegs. 
They utilise the remnants of the corpse in this manner in order to 
cause the family of the chief who is no more to feel that, even after 
death, he is still the slave of the victor. Before the feast of victory, 
each warrior drinks the blood of the enemy he has killed with lus 
own hand. The atoua, the god of the conquered, then becomes 
subject to the atoua of the victors. In the neighbourhood of 
Hokianga, Hongi ate the left eye of a great chief. According to 
their belief, the left eye becomes a star in the firmament, and Hongi 
considered that henceforth his star would be much the more 
brilliant, and the strength of his sight would be augmented by all 
that which was possessed by the defunct. 

Maynard goes on to say that he believes the action of cutting 
off an enemy’s head, raising it by the hair above one’s mouth in 
order to drink the warm blood running from the arteries, 
swallowing the left eye and chewing the muscles is all done in 
order to inherit a star and a soul. There were always, so far as 
he could ascertain, human sacrifices following the death of a 
chief. Tradition and, for want of a better word, ‘religion’, 
he says, demanded that the bodies of slaves should be placed 
upon that of a chief, but very often the sacrificers chose to eat 
them instead. 

Though the New Zealanders do not conceal their cannibalism (he 
ends), their chiefs sometimes endeavour to excuse themselves for 
it. “The fish of the sea eat one another,” they say; “the large 
fish eat the small ones, the small ones eat insects; dogs eat men 
and men eat dogs, while dogs eat one another; the birds of the air 
also prey up>on one another; finally, the gods devour other gods. 
Why, among enemies, should we not eat one another? ” 

There is usually a suspension of fighting after the death of the 
first chief to fall in combat. The party which has not lost that 
leader clctims the body of the defimct. If the others are intimi- 
dated, they yield it at once, and in addition, the chief’s wife, who 
is immediately put to death; she even voluntarily yields herself 


up, if she loved her husband. The priests cut up the corpses, 
divide them into fragments, and eat some; offering the greater 
number to their idols, while consulting the gods upon the issue of 
the present war. 

Maynard’s observations were the result of investigation in 
the early part of the nineteenth century. Three-quarters of a 
century later, Edward Tregear did some investigating for the 
purpose of writing a book he subsequently called quite simply 
The Maori Race. His researches were widespread and compre- 
hensive, and the results were to show, among other things, 
that the Maori could not be said to have changed much in the 
generations that had passed. 

After battle (Tregear writes) comes the terrible and revolting 
episode of the cannibal feast. It is unfortimately impossible to 
pass it over without notice, for Maori history is too full of allusion 
and incident connected with the practice for us to avoid mention 
and description of some of its horrors. 

Prisoners taken in the fight were slain in cold blood, except 
those reserved for slavery — a mark of still greater contempt than 
being killed for food. Sometimes after the battle a few of the 
defeated were thrust alive into large food-baskets and thus de- 
graded for ever. As a general rule, however, they were slain for 
die oven. 

In days near our own it is recorded that a chief named 
Wherowhero ordered 250 prisoners of the Taranaki people to be 
brought to him for slaughter. He sat on the ground and the 
prisoners were brought to him one by one to receive the blow of 
the chief’s mere — a weapon till lately in the possession of his son, 
the late Maori ‘King’. After he had killed the greater number 
of them he said, “I am tired. Let the rest live.” So the re- 
mainder passed into slavery. 

How numerous sometimes these war captives were may be 
judged by the fact that when Hongi returned from his raid on the 
southern tribes he brought back 2,000 prisoners to the Bay of 
Islands. One of the latest cannibal feasts of consequence was 
held at Ohariu, near Wellington, when 150 of the Muaupoko 
tribe went into the ovens. When the Maoris overcame the gentle 
Morioris of the Chatham Islands, not only did they keep the 
captives penned up like live-stock waiting to be killed and eaten, 
but one of the leading chiefs of the invaders ordered a meal of six 
children at once to be cooked to regale his friends. 

I was shown a part of a beach on the Chatham Islands on which 
the bodies of eighty Moriori women were laid side by side, each 
with an impaling stake driven into the abdomen. It is difficult 
for one not accustomed to savage warfare to note how shockingly 


calloiis and heartless this desecration of the human body made the 
actors in these terrible scenes. 

Tregear then gives a specific instance of this almost unbeliev- 
able callousness which struck him so forcibly. Indeed, it is 
hard to parallel the behaviour recorded here, except perhaps 
in Fiji and in some parts of New Guinea. 

A Maori relating an account of an expedition said, incidentally: 
“ On the way I was speaking to a red-haired girl who had just 
been caught out in the open. We were then on the eastern side 
of Maunga Whau, Auckland. My companions remained with 
the girl whilst I went to see the man of Waikato who had been 
killed. As we came back, I saw the head of the red-haired girl 
lying in the ferns by the side of the track. Further on, we over- 
took one of the Waihou men carrying a back-load of the flesh, 
which he was taking to our camp to cook for food. The arms of 
the girl were round his neck, whilst the body was on his back.” 
If one can mentally picture the scene, with the man striding 
along, carrying the headless, disembowelled trunk of the naked 
girl, enough of this kind of horror will have been evoked. 

Tregear mentions one odd point: odd because it is exactly 
the reverse of a practice we have already noted among the 
sorcerers of Papua who, Seligmann reported, made a practice 
of eating corpses for the purposes of their sorcery. Certain 
families, notably those of the Papahurihia, a tribe of wizards, 
refused ever to touch human flesh because, they maintained, 
such food would entirely destroy their magical powers. 

When the bodies could not all be eaten (Tregear continues), 
some of the flesh was stripped from the bones and dried in the sun, 
being hung on stages for that puipose. The flesh was then 
gathered into baskets and oil was p)oured over it, the oil being 
rendered-down from the bodies; this was done to prevent it 
spoiling from damp. Sometimes the flesh was jjotted into cala- 
bashes, as birds were potted. The bones were broken up and 
burnt in the fire. The body of a chief might be flayed, and the 
skin dried for covering hoops or boxes. The heads of the inferior 
chiefs were smashed and burnt, but those of the great were pre- 
served by smoking. Sometimes the bones were broken and 
knocked like nails into the jxjsts of the storehouses — a great 

Bones were also taken away to be made into fish-hooks, or as 
barbs for bird or eel spears. The hands were dried with the 
fingers bent towards the palm, and the wrists were tied to a pole 
which was stuck into the ground, and baskets contaiiung the 

i 82 cannibalism and human sacrifice 

remains of a meal were hung upon the fingers. Some of the Nga- 
puhi tribe were treated this way early this century. The hands 
were fastened to the walls of a house, with the wrists upwards and 
fingers turned up as hooks. The hands had been roasted until 
the outer skin had come off. The palms were quite white inside. 

It is curious how small, macabre details like these bring home 
the full significance and horror of such practices even more 
forcibly than descriptions of wholesale massacre and feasting. 
The image of a basket of human flesh hanging from the rigid 
fingers of a human hand severed at the wrist and fastened to a 
pole in the hut is surely the apotheosis of the macabre. 

If the deceased had been a great chief (Tregear continues), care 
was taken to degrade every part of the skeleton. The thigh- 
bones were made into flutes, or cut into sections that could be 
worked into rings for the legs of captive parrots. From other 
bones would be made pins for holding the dress-mats together, or 
needles for sewing dogskin mats. The skull might even be used as 
a water-vessel for carrying water in, for wetting the ovens. But 
chiefs’ heads were carried back to be erected on posts so that they 
might be taunted, or fixed on the corner sticks of a loom to be 
mocked by a woman as she sat weaving. In fact, no method of 
showing contempt, especially of defiling the remains of the defeated 
by associating them with food, was spared. 

Sometimes the heart of the vanquished was roasted for cere- 
monial purposes. When the Kaiapoi stronghold was attacked by 
the forces of Rauparaha, the heart of a chief of the defending party 
was cut out and roasted in a fire, while all the attacking warriors 
stood round it in a ring. The priests chanted and the warriors 
stretched out their arms towards the heart while it was cooking. 
When the priests ended their chant, the warriors took up the song, 
while the chief priest tore off a portion of the heart and threw it 
among the enemy to weaken them. 

The heart of a victim of sacrifice was not always eaten for war 
purposes. Sometimes it was for other reasons. Thus Uenuku 
ate the heart of his wife, who had committed adultery. The heart 
of the human sacrifice was eaten at a house-building ceremony, 
and also at the tattooing of the lips of a chief’s daughter and at the 
felling of a tree to be used for a great chief’s canoe. 

This last point gives a hint of contact between the Maori and 
the Fijian Islanders, among whom this practice has already 
been noted. The anthropologist A. P. Rice records this also, 
and adds that the custom of devouring a human heart might be 
found also in the course of the ceremony of mourning the passing 


of a chief, when the tribe was at the same time honouring his 

Rice goes on to comment on the element of heredity in regard 
to cannibalism, and quotes an anonymous French missionary, 
one of whose converts was a young Maori of, insisted the 
missionary, “a particularly gentle and lovable disposition, very 
shy — even timid, and extremely popular with everyone at the 
mission where he was employed.” . . . 

One day (said the missionary) he happened to meet a young girl 
who had run away for some reason from her home in a neighbour- 
ing village. The yoimg Maori suddenly became possessed of an 
unaccustomed demon. He seized the young girl, took her to his 
hut, killed her in cold blood; cut up her body in the traditional 
manner, and then invited his friends to partake with him in a 
meal, the chief and most favoured dish of which consisted of this 
young Maori girl. 

In his observations about cannibalism, particularly in regard 
to the practice in New Zealand, Rice makes one very unex- 
pected and interesting point: 

There is — though it sounds macabre — one redeeming feature in 
this matter of cannibalism: it makes those who participate in it 
well acquainted with the anatomy of the human frame. That is 
why a Maori is so frequentiy a master of surgery — surgery that 
may be rude, but is nevertheless extremely effective. He is 
fairly adept in the matter of dislocated joints and fractured bones, 
though of course owing to their lack of proper instruments — not 
to mention anaesthetics — any patient undergoing the amputation 
of, say, an arm or leg must evince an indifference to pain in order 
that the amateur surgeon may not be made nervous as he 

Rice’s observation is reasonable ; the comment that concludes 
it comes a little unexpectedly from an anthropologist ! 

It is, of course, the eye-witness account that remains longest 
in the memory, and our last reference to the cannibalism of the 
Maori shall be taken from the reports of white traders and 
others who came, wittingly or otherwise, to be involved in such 

The first concerns the Master of the trading-brig Elizabeth, 
one Captain Stewart, who allowed himself to be persuaded by 
a Maori chief to smuggle him and a party of his tribesmen 
aboard the ship so that they might arrive unexpectedly at the 


shores of an island where their enemies lived. Te Rauparaha 
must have been a person of some plausibihty, for Captain 
Stewart allowed a hundred and more natives to secrete them- 
selves in part of his holds before he set sail for their mutual 
objective: the one to pick up a cargo of flax, the other with a 
very different end in view. 

Between one and two in the morning, the Elizabeth dropped 
anchor off shore. At daylight, Stewart found canoes coming 
out to visit the ship, and one by one, the crews were allowed to 
come aboard, and were then battened down below hatches. 
As soon as sufficient canoes were available, the tribesmen from 
the other hold came up on deck, boarded the canoes, and 
paddled across the bay, to fight the depleted community and 
ultimately return with canoe-loads of victims, who were then 
thrown down into the holds where already their fellow-tribes- 
men were battened down. 

None of those taken prisoner were killed, nor were any of those 
killed on shore cooked on board, nor in the cooking-vessels belong- 
ing to the ship (says the report). All the bodies were cooked on 
shore in the primitive Maori fashion of the day. They dig a hole 
in the earth two feet deep, in which they make a quantity of round 
stones red-hot with dry wood, after which they take out all the 
stones except a few at the bottom, over which they lay several 
alternate tiers of leaves and flesh, until there is as much above the 
ground as below. They then throw about two or three quarts of 
water over all, and confine the steam with old mats and earth so 
completely that in 20 minutes the flesh is cooked; it is in this way 
that they cook and cure all their provisions. 

The prisoners, the dead and alive flesh, were brought ashore 
and seated in rows on the beach, the preserved flesh being 
carried off in baskets to the place appointed for the cannibal 
feast. It was estimated that about one hundred baskets of 
flesh were landed, and that each basket contained the equiv- 
alent of one human body. Then commenced a dance which 
was described by an eye-witness: 

The warriors, entirely naked, their long black hair, although 
matted with human gore, yet flowing partially in the wind; in 
the left hand a human head and in the right hand a bayonetted 
musket held by the middle of the barrel. Thus, with a song, the 
terrible expression of which can only be imagined by being heard, 
did they dance round their wretched victims, every now and then 


approaching them with gestures, threatening death under its most 
horrible forms of lingering torture. 

The captives, with the exception of one old man and a boy who 
were sentenced to death, were apportioned amongst the conquer- 
ing warriors as slaves. The tables were laid. About a hundred 
baskets of potatoes, a large supply of green vegetables, and equal 
quantities of whale-blubber and human flesh, constituted the a^^ul 
menu. The old man, from whose neck suspended the head of 
his son, while the body formed part of the cannibal feast, was 
brought forth and subjected to torture from the women before the 
last scene of all. 

The banquet went on to a finish, and, though it proved none the 
less attractive to the participants, was rendered all the more 
hideous to the onlookers by the fact that the midsummer season 
when it took place, added to the hasty and incomplete manner in 
which the hmnan flesh had been prepared in the ovens, caused 
the hinnan — yet unhuman — ^food to become putrid in a most 
revolting form before it was spread out for the banquet. Officers 
of the boat witnessed this frightful orgy, and some of them brought 
to Hobart Town mementoes of the scene, dissected from the bodies 
as they lay out for the repast. 

The second report is from one of a group of white traders, 
and comes in the form of a letter from Daniel Henry Sheridan. 
The group of traders had become involved in a vendetta 
between two tribes, the Waikato and the Taranaki; but this 
time it would seem that they had not allowed themselves, as 
Captain Stewart did, to play some part in the proceedings. They 
were unwilling and horrified witnesses — which was bad enough : 

The principal part of the prisoners that day were cripples, women 
and children; the remainder making their escapes as well as their 
weak state would allow them (they had been besieged for a con- 
siderable time). A party of the enemy were employed in des- 
patching as many as would be sufficient for the evening’s meal ; their 
slaves getting the ovens ready, and the remainder went in search 
of more prey, which they found to the number of twelve hundred. 

On the 23rd, they commenced the slaughter of the prisoners 
that were taken alive. They were crammed into huts, well 
guarded, the principal chief executioner, with a sharp tomahawk 
in his hand, ready to receive them. They were then called out 
one by one. Those that had well carved or tattooed heads had 
their heads cut off on a block, the body quartered and hung up)on 
fences that were erected for the piupose. Those with indifferent 
heads received one blow, and were then dragged to a hole to 
bleed. The young children, and grown-up lads, were cut down 
the beUy and then roasted on sticks before the fires. 


1 86 

I have, since this bloody deed was committed, paid a visit to the 
fatal sjKJt to view the remains of this horrid carnage. Within 
several miles in all directions, are placed in the ground pieces of 
wood, painted red, as a memorial of the spot where those that were 
left behind had some friend or relative slain. On advancing 
nearer, is a heap of bones, since burned, as near as I can imagine 
of about 300 persons. Thence to about a quarter of a mile are 
skeletons, not burned, strewed about the place where the enemy 
had formed their settlements, and the ovens still remaining where 
they had been cooked. 

I believe they did not eat any flesh inside the place where they 
butchered them, as I could not see any bones in it; it had not been 
disturbed since the savages left it to pay us a visit. The block 
they struck the fatal blow on was still remaining, the blood and 
the notches from the axe were still quite fresh. The trees were 
stripped of their leaves, and the branches thereof supplied, instead, 
with dead bodies, cleaned and ready for cooking. 

On taking a general view of the place, I observed that the 
enemy had formed three different settlements, and in each of them 
was a heap of bones similar to the first I had seen, and also to each, 
a rack, placed along the spot where they eat their victuals; on it 
they place the heads of their unfortunate victims, that they may 
continually keep the objects of their revenge in their sight and 
mind, which is the continued bloodthirsty practice of this dis- 
graceful race, whose constant study is meditating the death of 
their fellow-coxmtrymen. . . . 

Sheridan gives a number of descriptions of scenes that he has 
been obliged to witness, each more horrible than the last: 
episodes wherein, for example, a quarrel between two women 
in a tribe leads to mass-slaughter, with heads falling left and 
right, and the inevitable feasting and ‘curing’ of the heads as 
trophies and mementoes. The tribesmen took, he says, a 
perverse dehght in casting the entrails of some of their victims 
into the only stream in the neighbourhood supplying water fit 
for white men to drink. This, he says, according to their 
superstition made the water sacred, so that he and his com- 
panions dared not dnnk from it from fear of something worse 
than the mere fact of possibly being poisoned by the pollution. 
He then gives one more incident which, as he says, “with 
horror I beheld ” : 

To the g^ I was stationed at, they dragged a man slightly 
wounded in the leg, and tied him hand and foot until the battle 
was over. Then they loosed him and put some questions to him , 
which he could not answer, nor give them any satisfaction thereof. 


as he knew his doom. They then took the fatal tomahawk and put 
it between his teeth, while another pierced his throat for a chief to 
drink his blood. Others at the same time were cutting his arms 
and legs off. They then cut off his head, quartered him and sent 
his heart to a chief, it being a delicious morsel and they being 
generally favoured with such rarities after an engagement. 

In the meantime, a fellow that had proved a traitor wished to 
come and see his wife and children. They seized him and served 
him in like manner. Oh, what a scene for a man of Christian 
feeling, to behold dead bodies strewed about the settlement in 
every direction, and hung up at every native’s door, their entrails 
taken out and thrown aside and the women preparing ovens to 
cook them! By great persuasion, we prevailed on the savages 
not to cook any inside the fence, or to come into our houses during 
the time they were regaling themselves on what they termed 
sumptuous food — ^far sweeter, they said, than pork. 

On our side, there were eight men killed, three children, and 
two women, during the siege. They got sixteen bodies, besides a 
great number that were half roasted, and dug several up out of the 
graves, half decayed, which they also ate. Another instance of 
their depravity was to make a musket ramrod red hot, enter it in 
the lower part of the victim’s belly and let it run upwards, and 
then make a slight incision in a vein to let his blood run gradually, 
for them to drink. . . . 

Sheridan ends his letter, in which he has recounted such 
hideous incidents with such a wealth of detail : “ I must here 
conclude, being very scanty of paper; for which reason, 
columns of the disgraceful conduct of these cannibals remain 


Daniel Henry Sheridan.” 

At their worst — indeed, at their average level — the canni- 
balistic practices of the Maori were hardly surpassed even 
among the tribes occupying territories on the Equator; but it 
must be borne in mind that in recent years these aborigines of 
New Zealand have revealed an extraordinary capacity for 
absorbing much of what is best in so-called civilisation. T oday, 
though the number of pure Maori is steadily decreasing as a 
result of inter-marriage with other inhabitants of the islands, 
some thousands of them yet remain: men and women of fine 
potentialities. It is in this respect that they differ so funda- 
mentally from the Blackfellow of Australia with whom, by 
unthinking people, they are aU too often confused. 



Cannibalism, in the sense in which it has been discussed in 
the past chapters, can hardly be said to exist in the world of 
today. There may be isolated pockets of survival in the heart 
of New Guinea and among some of the tribes in the remotest 
comers of South American or African jungles ; but they will be 
no more than the rarest of phenomena. 

To find examples other than these it would be necessary to 
investigate the reports of survivors of shipwreck in such areas as 
the Indian Ocean, where rafts have been known to float for 
days and even weeks, with their occupants dying one by one of 
thir st and sunstroke till only one was left — one who in despair 
overcame the innate repugnance of contemporary man to 
touch human flesh, and drove himself to taste blood, to swallow 
a morsel of flesh in order to survive another hour or day and 
thus increase his chances of eventual rescue. There are such 
tales; but to quote from them in such a context as this seems 
hardly justifiable. 

The Second World War is not yet so far behind us that the 
names Belsen, Buchenwald and Auschwitz mean nothing to us 
today. In concentration camps such as those, the ultimate in 
degradation was reached; and the ultimate in degradation, as 
we have seen, implies a complete disregard for the sanctity of 
the human being. The endless volumes of reports on the 
Proceedings at the so-called Nuremberg Trials afford evidence 
of practices which, even in cold print, carry the odour of the 

In his revelatory book, TAg Scourge of the Swastika, Lord 
Russell of Liverpool wrote with the support not only of a wide 
range of official sources of information, but with the authority 
behind him of Anthony Somerhough, Q.C., formerly Head of 
the British War Crimes Group in Germany. 

There were no gas chambers in Belsen (Russell writes), but thou- 
sands were nevertheless exterminated by disease and starvation. 



During the last few months of the camp’s existence the shortage of 
food was so acute that the prisoners (the camp staff were still well 
fed) resorted to cannibalism, and one former British internee gave 
evidence at the trial of the Commandant and some of his staff that 
when engaged in clearing away dead bodies, as many as one in 
ten had a piece cut from the thigh or other part of the body, 
which had been taken and eaten, and that he had seen people in 
the act of doing this. To such lengths had they been brought by 
the pangs of hunger. 

This witness said : “I noticed on many occasions a very strange 
wound at the back of the thigh of many of the dead. First of all I 
dismissed it as a gunshot wound at close quarters, but after seeing 
a few more I asked a friend and he told me that many of the 
prisoners were cutting chunks out of the bodies to eat. On' my 
very next visit to the mortuary I actually saw a prisoner whip out 
a knife, cut a portion out of the leg of a dead body and put it 
quickly into his mouth, naturally frightened of being seen in the 
act of doing so. I leave it to your imagination to realise to what 
state the prisoners were reduced, for men to risk eating bits of 
flesh cut from corpses.” 

Incidents such as these can, of course, be multiplied almost 
indefinitely. Whether the word ‘caimibalism’ can fairly be 
applied to them is a different matter. Meaning, as it originally 
did, ‘man-eating’, of course the word is just; but over the 
passage of time the word has acquired other, and subtler, 

The distinguished Swedish criminologist, Soderman, who 
died recently after the greater part of a lifetime devoted to 
police work in many European coimtries, towards the end of 
which he revived the famous International Police Commission, 
has one strange tale — and a true tale at that — to teU of Germany 
in the present century. It is not the Germany of the concentra- 
tion camps but that of the between-the-wars period when 
food was scarce. . . . 

In the early twenties there was a hot-dog vendor plying his trade 
at one of the railroad stations in Berlin. His name was Gross- 
mann and he had once been a butcher. Grossmann was about 
fifty years old, a thin, insignificant little man with a haggard face 
and a sloping moustache. About twice a month he used to spend 
a day on the platform where long-distance, slow trains with cheap 
fourth-class carriages stopped. If he saw getting out of one of 
these carriages a girl who looked as if she were coming to the city 
to hunt for a job as a housemaid, he would approach her (pro- 
vided she was fat enough), politely lift his cap and inquire 


whether he could be of any assistance. During the conversation 
he would drop a remark that he was in need of a housekeeper for 
his bachelor household and that she could have the job if she 
wanted. He paid weU, he used to say, and there was not much 
work. Often a girl accepted, and any who did would not be 
seen again. 

Grossmaim kept each of these girls for a couple of days, then 
murdered her. He cut up the bodies with a butcher’s skill, kept 
the flesh and disposed of the balance in some sewer. Then he 
pickled the meat, groimd it and put it into his sausages, which he 
later sold at the railway station. This constant stream of girls 
into his flat finally alerted some neighbours, who put the police 
on his track. Bundles of female clothes were discovered in the 
closets, and finally Grossmann confessed. 

Soderman h<is other stories of the same kind to tell, culled 
from his case-book, but there is little point in duplicating any- 
thing at once so macabre and so near our own times. 

The nearest we come to cannibalism in the sense in which it 
has been treated throughout these chapters — closely associated 
with, or occasionally divorced from ceremonial and sacrifice — 
is in connection with the activities of the Mau Mau. It is very 
clear firom such books as L. S. B. Leakey’s Mau Mau and the 
Kikuyu that cannibalism in the East Afiican areas where these 
tribesmen operate either never wholly died, or has been 
secredy revived in order to give strength and urgency to an 
illicit movement. There is no doubt that some form of 
cannibalism is practised in connection with the initiation 
ceremonies that take place. 

The organisation generally referred to as ‘Mau Mau’ is 
considered to be merely a new name for the old Kenya Central 
Association, which was an organisation devoted to the obstruc- 
tion of the white man’s activities in monopolising more and 
more of the territories looked upon as belonging to the native. 
It became necessary to enlist all the support available, and such 
support as was enlisted had to be established as utterly and 
finally loyal, against no matter what temptation to default. 
Thus the oaths binding the members of the organisation had 
to be made as rigid and unbreakable as possible. And just as, 
where cannibalism was associated with religio-magic^ cere- 
mony, each successive generation of tribal priest or chief 
strengthened and elaborated the ritual, so among the Mau Mau 


each successive oath-taking ceremony became more and more 
violent in its control over the participants. 

Writing in 1954, lone Leigh stated that there were then eight 
degrees of oath-taking, each with a different ritual. . . . 

The first oath, which is the mildest, is taken in a darkened room 
where an arch of sugar-cane or banana-leaves has been erected. 
In an atmosphere of gloom, the candidate divests himself of all 
European articles such as watches, shoes and clothing. Rings of 
Igoka grass are then placed over his head and wrists, and standing 
naked before the arch he takes the oath. Seven sodum apples are 
included in the ritual to bring misfortune to him if he breaks the 
oath; the eyes of a slaughtered sheep, pierced with mugai thorns, 
also denote the fate of those who break their vows. 

A ‘ banana-beU which has been hollowed out and filled with a 
mixture of blood and earth, is rotated seven times round his head, 
after which a stick of ■wild hibiscus is dipped into the blood and 
put to his lips. He licks the blood, and bites the chest of the 
slaughtered sheep seven times. Blood is then drawn from his 
arm and mixed "with the sheep’s blood, which all initiates must 
drink. This forms the ‘ blood-brotherhood ’. Live cats and dogs 
and certain parts of human bodies are sometimes nailed to Mau 
Mau altars. 

Leigh writes that the oaths and rituals increase in bestiality. 
Among the pledges that the initiate must give is one stating 
that whenever he kills a European he will cut off the head, 
extract the eyeballs, and then drink the liquid from them. 

For the fourth oath (Leigh continues), which is usually taken 
before an African becomes a Captain in the Mau Mau anny, a 
dead body has to be pro'vided. At the ceremony the fingers of the 
dead man are bent seven times, and his eyes pricked seven times. 
A Major takes the fifth oath. He is required to bite the brain of 
a dead African seven times. For a Brigadier, the brain of a 
white man has to be pro'vdded. The candidate proceeds to eat 
seven pieces of it. A General, who takes the seventh oath, is 
required to eat, besides the brain, the ■wrist-bones of a white man, 
broken up and mixed ■with his excrement and blood. 

For the last oath, a man and a child must first be killed. The 
heart of the child is cut from its body, and pricked seven times 
■with a nail ; the brains and blood of the dead man are then mixed 
■with the blood of the oath-takers, and all members are required to 
drink the draught. 

In order to intensify the ‘atmosphere’ of these oath-taking 
ceremonies, they were usually accompanied by sexual orgies 


and perversions involving many animals — rams, dogs, sheep 
and so on. These orgies are so disgusting that the authenti- 
cated reports on them are not available for general study. 
They may be consulted on the premises of the Colonial or 
Commonwealth Relations Office Library, and in one or two 
of the major libraries; to turn the pages of these documents is 
a more brutalising experience than any resulting from a perusal 
of the reports of travellers and missionaries in the cannibal 
territories of the South Sea Islands, Central South America, 
Equatorial Afkica, or the North Island of New Zealand. 

The final word on cannibalism may perhaps be left to A. I. 
Hopkins, whose comments on the customs of the Solomon 
Islanders have already been quoted. Writing in more 
general terms, he has this to say; 

It is noticeable how people who have never been cannibals despise 
the horrible thing ; and how quickly it disappears when a cannibal 
tribe comes into contact with a wider world than that merely of 
their own bush villages. Directly dayhght falls on the habit, it 
withers away. This is remarkable when we remember the 
S2mctity of it in primitive man’s eyes. The cannibal is not 
necessarily a hopelessly degraded brute, but a man who has not 
yet lived out of the dark obscurity of bush tribalism, and so has 
blindly followed a practice deep-rooted in the sacrificial ideas 
common to man the world over from his earliest days. 


Among the authors and works consulted, the most important are 
the following: 

Basden, G. T., Among the Ibos of Nigeria (Seeley Service, igai) 

Bates, H. W., The Naturalist on the Amazons (John Murray, 1863) 
Benedick, Ruth, Patterns of Culture (Routledge, 1935) 

Bentley, Rev. W. Holman, Pioneering on the Congo (R.T.S. two vols., 

Berry, R. G., The Sierra Leone Carmibals (Proceedings of the Royal 
Irish Academy, vol. xxx, section C., no. 2, 1912) 

Bjerre, Jens, The Last Cannibals (Michael Joseph, 1956) 

Boas, Franz, The Social Organisation and Secret Societies of the Kwakkttl 
(Report of the U.S. National Museum, 1895) 

Brown, Rev. G., Melanesians and Polynesians (Macmillan, 1910) 
Chalmers, Rev. J., Life and Work in New Guinea (R.T.S. , 1895) 
Codrington, R. H., The Melanesians (Oxford University Press, 1891) 
Coombe, Florence, Islands of Enchantment'. Many-sided Melanesia 
(Macmillan, 1911) 

Codow, L., ^anzabuku (Robert Hale, 1957) 

Dennis, Rev. J., Social Evils of the Non-Christian World (London, 1899) 
Elkin, A. P., The Australian Aborigines (Angus & Robertson, 1938) 
Evans-Pritchard, E.E., Article in Africa, vol. 26 (The African 
Institute, 1956) 

Fox, C. E., The Threshold of the Pacific (Kegan Paul, 1924) 

Frazer, Sir James G., The Golden Bough (Macmillan, twelve vols., 

Grubb, W. B., A Church in the Wilds (Seeley Service, 1925) 
Gwyther, J., Captain Cook and the South Pacific (Houghton, Mifflin, 
Boston, 1954) 

Hinde, S. L., The Fall of the Congo Arabs (Methuen, 1897) 

Hopkins, A. I., In the Isles of King Solomon (Seeley Service, 1928) 
Home, G., and Aiston, G., Savage Life in Central Australia (Mac- 
millan, 1924) 

James, E. O., Origins of Sacrifice (John Murray, 1933) 

Johnson, Martin, Carmibal-Land (Boston and New York, 1922) 
Johnston, Sir Harry, George Gretifell and the Congo (Hutchinson, two 
vob., 1908) 

Kapen, E. W., Sociological Progress in Mission Lands (Fleming Revell, 
New York, 1914) 

Keane, A. H., South America (London, 1909) 

Kyle-Little, Syd., Whispering Wind (Hutchinson, 1957) 

L^ge, Algot, In the Amazon Jungle (Putnam, New York, 1912) 

N 193 



Leakey, L. S. B., Mau Mau and the Kikuyu (Methuen, 1952) 

Leigh, lone. In the Shadow of the Mau Mau (W. H. Allen, 1954) 
Mariner, W., and Martin, J., An Account of the Natives of Tonga 
Islands (Constable, Edinburgh, 1827) 

Maynard, F., and Dumas, A., The Whalers (Hutchinson, 1937) 
McNab, Robert, The Old Whaling Days (Whitcombe & Tombs, New 
Zealand, 1913) 

Meek, C. K., The Northern Tribes of Nigeria (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 
two vols., 1925) 

Meek, C. K., Tribal Studies in Northern Nigeria (Routledge & Kegan 
Paul, Ltd., two vols., 1931) 

Memorandum on the Mau Mau Oath Ceremonies (Report to the Secretary 
of State for the Colonies by the Parhamentary Delegation to 
Kenya, January, 1954) (H.M.S.O., 1954) 

Metraux, A., Easter Island (Andre Deutsch, 1957) 

Michelsen, Rev. Oscar, Cannibals Won for Christ (London, 1894) 
Murray, J. H. P., Papua, or British New Guinea (Fisher Unwin, 1912) 
Perry, W. J., The Children of the Sun (Methuen, 1923) 

Purves, D. L. (Editor), Cook’s Voyages Round the World (Nimmo, Hay 
& Mitchell, Edinburgh, c. 1880) 

Reed, A. H. and A. W. (Editors), The Journals of Captain Cook (New 
Zealand, 1951) 

Rice, A. P., Article in The American Antiquarian, vol. xxxii (1910) 
Romilly, H. H., The Western Pacific and New Guinea (John Murray, 

Roscoe, John, The Bagesu and Other Tribes of the Uganda Protectorate 
(The Royal Society, 1924) 

Roth, H. Ling, The Natives of Sarawak (London, two vols., 1896) 
Russell of Liverpool, Lord, The Scourge of the Swastika (Cassell, 1954) 
Selig^ann, C. G., The Melanesians of British New Guinea (Cambridge 
University Press, 1910) 

Simpson, Cohn, Adam in Ochre (Angus & Robertson, 1938) 

Spence, Basil, Article in Sudan Notes and Records, vol. Ill, no. 4 
(Dec. 1920) 

Spencer, B., and GiUen, F. J., The Arunta (Macmillan, two vols., 


St Johnston, A., Camping Among Cannibals (Macmillan, 1883) 
Talbot, P. A., Southern Nigeria (Clarendon Press, Oxford, three vols., 

Tregear, E., The Maori Race (New Zealand, 1904) 

Walker, H. W., Wanderings among South Sea Savages (Witherby, 1909) 
Wallace, A. R., Travels on the Amazon (Ward Lock, 1853) 

Ward, Herbert, A Voice from the Congo (Heinemann, 1910) 

Williams, F. E., Orokaiva Society (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1930) 
Wilhams, F. E., The Natives of the Purari Delta (Port Moresby, 1924) 




Ababja, The, go 
Africa, 15, 16, 18, 69, 81, 82, 
85-93> 94-101. 102-16, 
Africa, 1 13 
Aiston, G., 169-71 
Amajuacas, The, 70 
Amazon Basin, The, 20, 68, 
69-80, 102, 1 15 
American Indians, 51, 52, 54 
Ancient Mariner, The, 36 
Andersen, Hans, 154 
Anthropophagy, 16 
Ao Naga, The, 126 
Ape-Man, The Javan, 13, 14 
Apolima, 158 
Arabs, The, 14 
Araras, The, 72 
Arnhem Land, 167, 171 
Asisi, 132 

Asurbanipal, King, 12 
Ataka, The, 85 
Atlantic, The, 71, 81, 102 
Atoua, 179 
Aucas, The, 70 
Auckland, 181 
Auschwitz, 188 
Australia, 16, 19, 23, 157, 167- 
72, 173, 174 
Azande, The, 113, 114 
Aztecs, The, 43-51, 53, 69, 

1 16, 126, 127, 154 


Bafum-Bansaw, The, 90 
Bagesu, The, 18, 81, no, in 


Bakolo, 34 
Bamba, The, 109 
Bambala, The, 107 
Bambwas, The, 112 
‘Banana-beir, 191 
Bangalas, The, 107 
Bannerman, Rev. W. S., 116 
Bantu, The, 109 
Baptist Missionary Society, 
The, 104, 109 
Bapulula, 104 
Basden, G., 81, 90, 91, 92 
Basongo, The, 103 
Bataks, The, 18 
Bates, H. W., 70, 71, 74 
Battas, The, 125, 126 
Bau, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35 
Baxbakualanuxsiwae, 55, 56, 
57. 58, 59. 61, 62, 63, 
64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 88, 
97. 157 

Bay of Islands, The, 178, 179, 

‘Bear Dancers’, 67 
Bechuans, The, 116 
Belgian Congo, The, 12, 13, 
16, 109, 113, 115 
Belscn, 188 
Bengal, 50 

Bentley, Rev. W. H., 104-6, 

Besa, 136 

Best, Elsdon, 173 

Bihor, The, 20 

Binandele, The, 132 

Bjerre, Jens, 142-3 

Black Islands, The, 22, 128 

BlackfeUows, The, 167-72, 187 



Blood-drinking, 15, :6, 19, 30, 
32, 44, 68, 71, 86, 107, 
168-^, 179, 187, 191 
Blyth, R., 1 71 
Bock, Carl, 122 
Bohemia, 15 
Bolivia, 70 
‘Boning’, 170-1 
Bojjirrwr , 95, 96, 99, 100 
Boriri , 136 

Borneo, 115, 117-27, 128 
Botany Bay, 167 
Botocudos, The, 70 
‘Braining-stone’, 35 
Brazil, 69, 70, 74, 75 
‘Bride-goddesses’, 46, 47 
British Columbia, 53, 126 
British Museum, The, vii, viii 
Bromilow, Rev. W. E., 139 
Bronze Age, The, 14 
Brooke, Sir James, Rajah of 
Sarawak, 120, 122 
Brown, Rev. G., 150-1, 158-9 
Bubendorf, Father, 92 
Buchenwald, 188 
Bugotu, 148 
Buguburrt, 172 
Burial, 18, 49, 50, 62, 65, 71, 
82, 100, 109, no, 1 12, 
116, 159, 165, 168, 169 
Burma, 126 


Caboclos , 79 

Calendar, The, 44, 46, 47 
Camping Among Cannibals , 30 

Aversion to, 17, 35, 36, 65, 
87, 122, 148, 159, 160, 
163, 164, 166, 174-5, 
177, 188, 192 

Forms of, 18, 19, 24, 25, 29, 

30, 31. 32, 34, 37, 39, 

40, 46, 61, 62, 63, 64, 

Cannibalism { contd .) : 

70, 71, 73, 78, 79, 80, 
83, 85, 86, 89, 90, 92, 
98, 99, 100, 103, 104, 
105, 106, 107, III, I 13, 

114. 118.119. 121. 125, 
126, 1 30-1, 133, 134-5, 

138-7, 138, 139, 140, 

141, 142, 144, 146, 147, 
I 5 1-2, 153, 159, 160, 
161, 162, 163, 164, 168, 
1 7 1-2, 175, 176, 178, 
180-2, 184-^, 187 
Motives for: 

Dietetic, 17, 33, 38, 40, 
81,83,89, 92, 103, no, 
114, 130, 133, 165 
Famine, 15, 16, 103, 158, 

FertiUty, 20, 43, 46, 49, 
50, 116, 117, 126 
Gluttony, 18, 24, 25, 27, 
29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 81, 
83, 84, 88, 90, 100, 103, 

104. 109. 114. 122. 126, 
128, 135, 141, 148, 152, 
154, 157-8, 161, 164, 
176, 189 

Magic, 17, 19, 20, 42, 46, 
49, 50, 51, 61, 64, 83, 

87, 96, 100, 117, 119, 
120, 126-7, 128, 133, 
143, 148-9, 160, 167, 
168-9, 1 70-1, 172, 178, 
179, 181, 182 

Pietistic, 17, 18, 19, 20, 
42, 46, 51, 70, 88, in, 
”3, 133, 135, 150, 151, 
167, 168-9, 179 
Punishment, 18, 29, 87, 
106, 125, 126, 148, 158, 

Revenge, 18, 21, 29, 81, 

88, 91, 92, 115, 125, 


Motives for (contd.) : 

126, 128, 135, 136, 140, 
146-7, 149, 150, 151, 
156, i59> 163, 164, 167, 
168, 178, 179, 180, 182, 

Shipwreck, 15, 188 
Siege, 15 

Prehistoric, 13, 14 
Recent, 23, 94, 109, 114, 
115, 128, 143, 144, 167, 

Canoe-building, 26, 27, 35, 

Cape Mudge, 52 

Cargill, Rev. David, 25, 27, 

33> 71 

Carib, 17 

Caribbean, The, 43 
Cashibos, The, 70 
Casson, Sir Hugh, 13 
Caxiri, 71 
Centeotl, 44, 47 
Central America, 16 
Central Australia, 12 
Central Europe, 14 
Chalmers, Rev. J., 129 
Chatham Islands, The, 180 
Chavantes, The, 16 
Chichia, 35 
Chile, 157 
China, 13, 15 

Chiriguano Indians, The, 74 
Choukoutien, 13 
Church in the Wilds, A, 73 
Cocomas, The, 70 
Codrington, R. H., 147, 148 
Coelacanth, ii 
Coleridge, S. T., 36 
Columbus, Christopher, 43 
Concentration Camps, 188-9 
Congo Basin, The, 69, 8 1 , 1 02- 

Congo, R., 102, 108 


Conquistadors, The, 17, 38, 

. 43 

Conquistadors, The, 43 
Cook, Captain, 159, 160, 165- 
6, 167, 173-7 

Coombe, Florence, 149, 151 
Coral Sea, The, 128 
Corpse-selling, 16, 83, 91, 92, 
105, 108, 1 19, 148 
Cotlow, Lewis, 109-10, 154 
Croatia, 14 
Cro-Magnon Man, 14 
Crowther, Bishop, 93 


Dalton, John, 123, 124-5 
Dampier, Wilham, 167 
Dardistan, 16 
Darwin, Charles, 70 
Davidson Black, 13 
Deas, Rev. E., 93 
Dellenbaugh, F. S., 74 
Dennis, James, 81, 102 
Descola, Jean, 43 
Diaries, vii, 27, 174-7 
DiUon, Captain, 37 
Doboduras, The, 141, 142, 


Dobu, 139 
Dordogne, The, 14 
Dumas, Alexandre, 36 
Dyaks, The, 117-27 


East Indies, The, 16 
Easter Island, 164-5 
Ecuador, 49 
Edo, The, 89 
Efate, 146, 147 
Elizabeth, The, 183-4 
Elkin, A. P., 168-9 
Ellice Islands, The, 22 
Elvira, 14 

Endeavour, The, 174-7 



Engert, H, G., 1 14-5 
Epi, 147 

Equator, The, 22, 71, 74, 81, 
82, 102, 115, 117, 128, 
i43> I57> 165, 187 
Ethnography, 22, 23, 38 
Evans-Pritchard, E. E., 1 13-14 
Eyes, 19, 1 18, 1 19, 155, 159, 
i 79 > 191 


Faiaso, 159 

Famine, 15, 16, 158, 159, 168 
Fangs of Gaboon, The, 18, 

Fawcett, Colonel, 69 
Fertility, 20, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 
48, 49, 50, 1 1 6, 117, 
126, 127 

Fetichism, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65, 
66, 91, 1 12, 1 18, 126 
Fiji, 16, 22-40,41, 51, 71, 125, 

130. 139. 144. 15 G 158, 

159, 160, 161, 163, 173, 
181, 182 

Flesh-eating, ii, 17, 40, 112, 
168, 178 

Fomander, Judge, 166 
Fort Portal, 109, no 
Fort Rupert, 67 
Frazer, Sir James, 42 
French Equatorial Africa, 81, 

French West Africa, 81 
Friendly Isles, The, 32, 157, 



Gaboon, 18 

Gaboon, Fangs of, 18, 115-6 
Gaboon Mission, The, 1 16 
Ganawuri, The, 85, 86, 87 
Garden of Eden, The, 129 
Gela, 148 

Ghosts, 19, III, 112, 127, 128, 
132, 149, 150 
God-houses, 26, 27 
Golden Bough, The, 42, 116 
Gopi, 133 

Gran Chaco, El, 69, 72, 73, 

Grenfell, Rev., 104, 107, 109 
Grimm, 154 
Grossmann, 189-90 
Grove of Nemi, The, 42 
Grubb, W. B., 72, 73, 78 
Guadalcanal, 148 
Guarani, The, 73 
Gulf of Guinea, 81 
Gumauwurrk, The, 172 


Haialikilal, 55, 56 
Hallenga, The, 18 
Hamatsa Pole, The, 59 
Hamatsas, 55, 59, 60, 61, 62, 
63. 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 

Hapai, The, 160-1, 162 
Harvey, Dr W. H., 32 
Hawaiian Islands, The, 165-6, 


Head-himting, 70, 85, 117, 
121, 122, 124, 125, 126- 
7, 186 

‘Healers’, The, 61 
Heliga, The, 61 
Hernlock, 62 
Herodotus, 14 
Hiawatha, 52 

Hill Angas, The, 86, 87, 88, 


Hill Dy^, The, 118 
Hinde, S. L., 102, 103-4 
Hobart Town, 185 
Hokianga, 179 
Homo sapiens, 14 
Hongi, 179, 180 



Honolulu, 165-6 
Hopkins, A. L, 148, 149, 192 
Home, G., 169-71 
Hoxhok, 55, 58, 59 
Hualaga, 70 
Hui, 131 

Human Sacrifice, vii, 20, 34, 
35> 38, 39. 41. 42, 43. 
44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 
50,51, 87, 89, 91, 1 16, 
126, 147, 164, 167, 179, 
180, 182, 190 

Hunt, Rev. John, 25, 26, 27, 
33. 71 


Ibadan, 82 
Ibos, TTie, 91, 92 
Jdaidaga, 140 
Jkalevu, 30 

In The Amazon Jungle, 80 
Incas, The, 49 
India, 20, 173 
Indian Ocean, The, 81, 188 
Indonesia, 13, 75, 117-27 
Initiation-rites, 60, 61, 62, 63, 
64, 65, 66, 68, 94, 95, 
96, 97, 132,133.168-9, 

International Date Line, The, 
22, 38, 157 
Ireland, 14 

Irish, The Ancient, 38 
‘Iron rations’, 122 
Issedones, The, 14 
Ivory Coast, The, 94 


Jagay, 95 

Jaggar, Rev., 29, 30, 33 
James, E. O., 116, 126-7, 

Janakang, The, 1 19 
Jauari, R., 72, 74 

Java, 1 17 
Java Man, 13, 14 
Javari, R., 74 
Jawara, The, 86 
Jincang, The, 119 
John The Baptist, 1 1 
Johnson, Martin, 144-5 
Journals, Cook’s, 174-7 
Juan de Fuca, 52 
Ju-ju’, 91 
Jumana, The, 20 
Jungles, 15, 68 


Kababaia, The, 151 
Kaiapoi, The, 182 
Kai-tangata, 164 
Kalahari, The, 90 
Kaleri, The, 86 
Kamba, 29, 30 
Kapen, E. W., 81 
Kapuas, R., 120, 122 
Karens, The, 126 
Kari, 126 
Kaura, The, 168 
Kayans, The, 121, 127 
Keane, A. H., 70 
Kenia Vake, 134 
Kenya, 81, no, 115, 116, 190- 

Kenya Central Association, 

Khonds, The, 50 
Khuan, 126 
Kikuyu, The, 81 
King, Captain, 166 
Kingsley, Charles, 115 
Kingsley, Mary, 115-^ 
Kinqalalala, 55, 58, 61, 62, 

Kipling, Rudyard, 11 
‘Knuckle-bones’, 95 
Kobena, The, 20 
Krapina, 14 



Kwakiutl Indians, The, 15, 
52, 53-6, 60, 62, 66-9, 
83* 94> 97. 132, 154. 


Kyle-Litde, Syd, 171-2 

Lagos, 82 
Lake Superior, 52 
Lange, Algol, 74-80 
Lauthala, 28, 29 
Le Moustier, 14 
Leakey, L. S. B., 81 190 
Legends, 15, 51, 52-5, 83-5, 
129-30, 154-6, 157-8 
Leigh, lone, 191 
Lenguas, The, 73, 78 
‘Leopard-knife’, 95, 97 
‘Leopard Man’, 95, 97, 98, 99 
Leopard Society, The, 16, 94- 
loi, 132, 133 
Leper’s Island, 148 
Liboko, The, 104 
Life-principle, 19, 20, 42, 44, 
46, 87 

Liverpool, R., 171, 172 
Livingstone, David, 102 
‘Long pig’, 30, 32, 145 
Longfellow, H. W., 52, 53 
Lovosas, 160 
Low, Sir Hugh, 1 1 7 
Lukungu, R., 107 
Lulongo, R., 105 


MacGregor, Sir William, 1 34-5 
Madagascar, 13 
Magic, 18, 20, 46, 47, 49, 50, 
54. 57. 59. 60, 64, 67, 
87. 91. 95. 96, 99. ”1. 

1 17. 131. 138, 140. 148- 

9. 150, 155. 167. 168- 
9, 1 70-1, 172, 178, 179, 
181, 182, 190 

Maia, 135, 136, 140 
Maiha, 135, 136, 140 
Maivara, 135-6 
Maize Goddess, The, 44, 47 
Majeroneis, The, 71, 72 
Makantaun, 122 
Makura, 147 
Mala, 148, 149 
Malakaleo, 147 
Malay Peninsula, The, 1 1 7 
Malaya, 13, 75, 173 
Malekula, 146 
Maloca, 77, 79 
Mambila, The, 82, 83 
Mambila Plateau, The, 82 
Mona, 149, 150 
Manbuloi, The, 171 
Mangbetu, The 109, no 
Mangeromas, The, 68, 79, 80 
Maniloa, 157 

Maori, The, 19, 38, 173-87 
Maori Race, The, 180 
Marco Polo, 14 
Mariner, William, 160, 162 
Marquesas, The, 22, 38, 157, 

Martin, Dr John, 160, 161-2 
Masai, The, no 
Massagetae, The, 14 
Matabwiki, 104 
Matem, 54, 55 
Matto Grosso, The, 69 
Mau Mau, The, 81, 95, 116, 

Mau Mau and the Kikuyu, 190 
Maya, The, 43 
Maynard, Dr Felix, 36, 125, 

McKinley, Dr, 168 
Meek, G. K., 81, 82, 89, 90 . 
Melanesia, 15, 16, 18, 22, 23- 
40,51, 128-43, 144-56, 
157. 159, 168, 173 
Melanesian Mission, The, 15 1 



Melville, Hemann, 162 
Mere, 180 
Meriah, 50 
Meribun, The, 119 
Mesolithic Man, 14 
Methodist Mission, The, 23, 
25, 26, 29 

Metraux, Alfred, 164-5 
Mexico, 20, 38, 42, 47 
Michelsen, Rev. O., 146-7 
Milano, The, 119 
Miller, Dr Eric, 17 
Milne Bay, 138 
Minnehaha, 52 
Missionaries, vii, 15, 23, 25, 
27> 33. 36, 37. 70. 72. 
73.90. 92,93. 102, 104, 
105, 106, 107, 129, 130, 
145. 146, 149, 150, 151, 
164, 169, 178, 183 
Mobangi, R., 104, 105 
Moby Dick, 162 
Moffat, 66 
Montezuma, 43 
Morioris, The, 180 
Mosembe, 106 
Moss-troopers, The, 14 
Muaupoko, The, 180 
Mugai, 1 91 

Murray, J. H. P., 130, 132-3, 


Myths, 15, 51, 52-5, 83-5, 
129-30, 154-6, 157-8 
M’zumba, Lake, 103 


Naclear Bay, 37 
Naga Hills, The, 127 
Nahua, The, 43 
Namusi Matua, 26 
Nanwaqawe, 55 
Naturalist on the Amazons, The, 
70, 71 

Neanderthal Man, 14 

Negro Belt, The, 91 
Neohthic Man, 14 
New Britain, 144 
New Caledonia, 22, 38, 144, 

151-2, 159. 168 

New Guinea, 23, 117, 128-43, 
144, 147, 172, 181, 188 
New Hebrides, The, 22, 38, 
144. 146, 147 
New Ireland, 152, 162 
New York, 13 

New Zealand, 16, 38, 144, 
165, 173-87, 192 
Ngapuhi, The, 182 
Ngarigo, The, 168 
Nguna, 146 

Niger Company, The, qi 
Niger, R., 82, 93 
Nigeria, 16, 69, 81, 82-93, 94 
Nineveh, 12 
Nkanu, The, 90 
Nootka, The, 1 26 
North Africa, 12 
North America, 16, 52 
North Island, N.Z., 175, 192 
North Pacific Coast, The, 15, 
18, 52 

Northern Rhodesia, 116 
Northern Territory, 167 
‘Noseman’, 134 
Nulilokue, 56, 57 
Nuremberg Trials, The, 188 


Oaths, 96, 190, 191 
Oaxaca, 43 
Obushi, 91 
Oedidee, 174-5 
Ohariu, 180 
Okrika, The, 93 
Old Testament, The, 42 
Onitsha, 91, 92 
Ono, 31 

Orokaiva, The, 130, 131, 132 



^Orono\ 166 
Outam, The, 151 
Ovimbundu, 18 


Papahurihia, The, 181 
Papua, 38, 128, 132, 133, 139, 
142, 181 
Parangs, 118 
Parauma, 138-9 
Patricio, Jose, 72 
Paiu, 165 

Pawnee Indians, The, 49 
Pearl Harbour, 165 
Pekin, 13 
Perrault, 154 

Peru, 38, 49, 70, 74, 79, 157 
Philippines, The, 1 1 7 
Pioneering on the Congo, 104-5 
Pithecanthropus erectus, 13 
Pithecanthropus Pekinensis, 13, 14 
Poke Vake, 134 

Polynesia, 15, 16, 22, 38, 40, 
157-66, 173 
Pomare, 178 
Port Hunter, 151 
Port Moresby, 135 
Pre-history, 13, 14, 69 
Priests, Tribal, 39, 44, 45, 47, 
48, 85, 152, 162, 166, 
180, 182 
Procrustes, 34 
Puaka balava, 30 
Puaka dina, 30 

Purari Delta, The, 132, 133, 


Pmification rites, 39, 63, 65, 
66, III, 132, 140, 160 
Pygmies, 109 


Qpaqoasililagilis, 56, 60 
Qpaxqoaxualanuxsiwae, 55, 


Qpminoqa, 55, 58, 60 
Queensland, 146, 169 
Quetzalcoati, 20 


Ragau, 150 
R.A.LG.B.I., vii, viii 
Rakeraki, 31 
Ranavalona, Queen, 11 
Rapahango, Victoria, 164 
Rauparaha, 182 
Rauwarang, The, 172 
Rewa, 26, 27, 28, 31 
Rice, A. P., 24, 33, 34, 35, 38, 
39 . 40. 139-40, 147, 
151-2, 159, 163, 182-3 
Ritual, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 , 
48, 49 , 50, 51, 59 , 61, 
62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 87, 
88, 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 
108, III, 1 12, 1 14, 1 16, 
118, 119, 131, 132, 133, 
134, 139, 140, 150, 158, 

168, 169, 172, 182, 183, 

Rivers Inlet, 52 
Rocky Mountains, The, 53 
Romilly, H. H., 152-4, 162 
Roscoe, John, 81, 110-2 
Roussel, Father, 164 
Rukuba, The, 86 
Russell of Liverpool, Lord, 

Ruwenzori, Mt, 109, iii 

Sadong, R., 119 
Samboul, 126 

Samoa, 22, 38, 157, 158, 159 
San Cristoval, 148, 149, 151, 

154, 156 

Sangow, R., 12 1 
Santang, 121, 122 
Saraw^, 117-27 


Saturday Review, The, 93, 112-3 
Sauwar, 14 
Saxons, The, 38 
Schweinfurth, 109, no 
Scotland, 14 

Scourge of the Swastika, The, 

Sea Dyaks, The, 117, 118 
Seligmann, G. G., 135-8, 181 
Seru, 30 

Sheridan, D. H., 185 
Shipwreck, 15 
Siam, 126 
Sibaru, The, 120 
Siege, 15 

Sierra Leone, 94-101, 132, 133 
Simpson, Colin, 168 
Skulls, 14, 61, 83, 1 18, 141, 
151, 165, 178, 182 
Smoke-drying, 16, 62, 71, 90, 
103, 105, 107, 1 13, 1 18, 
124, 127, 169, 178, 181, 
1 86 

Society Islands, The, 22, 38, 
i57» 163, 173, 174 
Soderman, H., 189-90 
Sodum, 19 1 

Solomon Islands, The, 22, 144, 
147, 148, 192 
Somerhough, A., 188 
Somosomo, The, 31 
Song of Hiawatha, 52, 53 
Soul-stuflf, 19, 20, 42, 44, 46, 
87, 126, 127 

South America, 15, 16, 18, 49, 
69-80, 192 

South American Missionary 
Society, The, 72 
South Pacific, The, 22, 23, 36, 
43, 141, 144, 173 
South Sea Islands, The, 22, 
38, 144, 162, 168, 192 
South Seas, The, 16, 22, 144, 



Spaniards, The, 14, 49, 148 
Spence, Basil, 113 
Spier, Dr, 17 
St Jerome, 14 

St Johnston, Alfred, 30, 32, 33, 
35. 36, 40, 80, 130 
Stanley Falls, The, 104 
Stanley, H. M., 102 
Stapleton, Rev., 106 
Stewart, Captain, 183-5 
Stone Age, The, 13, 14, 69, 167 
Strabo, 14 
Sucuruju, The, 74 
Sudan, The, no, 113 
Sumatra, 125 
Suna, 132 

Sungei Meribun, 119 
Sura, The, 86, 87 
Sweeney, Gordon, 171-2 
Switzerland, 14 


Tabus, 20, 34, 39, 55, 63, 64, 
65, 66, 68, 83, 85, 86, 
87, 89, 90,94, 107, in, 
114, 118, 119, 125, 126, 
129, 131, 133. 136. 139. 
140-1, 150, 152, 172 
Tahiti, 22, 38, 174 
Talbot, P. A., 81, 89-90 
Tananarive, 12 
Tangale, The, 85, 88 
Tanganyika, 12, no 
Tanoa, 27, 28, 30, 31 
Tapuyas, The, 70 
Taranaki, The, 180, 185 
Tarianas, The, 71 
Taro, 132, 140 
Tartary, 15 
Taumako, 146 
Tawixamaye, 56, 60, 61 
Te Rauparaha, 184 
Teeth-filing, 68, 77, 109, 112, 
115, 120, 176 



Teteoinnan, 44, 47 
Tetzcatlipoca, 20 
Thakjinndrove, 25 
Theseus, 34 
Tibet, 15 
Timor, 117 
Toh, 127 
Toltecs, The, 43 
Tonga, 22, 32, 38, 157, 159, 
160, 161 

Tongoa, The, 144 
Torres Straits, The, 172 
Totec, 44 
Touai, 177-8 
Toxcatl, 46 

Travels on the Amazon^ 70 
‘Tree-burial’, 62, 65 
Tregear, E., 180-2 
Trings, The, 122 
Tso, 126 

Tucanos, The, 71 
Tuiilaila, 28 
Tupia, 175, 177 
Tupinambas, The, 70 
Tupuivao, 158 
Turks, The, 15 


Ucayali, R., 70 

Uenuku, The, 182 

Uganda, 18,81, 109, no, iii, 


UitzilopochtU, 43, 44 
Ulahu, 155 
Ungias, The, 12 1 
United Presbyterian Mission, 
The, 93 
Uruguay, 16 


Vakatotoga, 39 
Valebpsarus, 40 
Vancouver, 16, 52 
Venezuela, 72 

Verata, 28 
Vewa, 31 

Victoria, Lake, no 
Viwa, 29 


Wapwaga, 135-6, 140, 141 
Waidoua, 178 
Waihou, 1 81 
Waikato, 181, 185 
Walker, Sir W., 141-2 
Wallace, Russel, 70, 71 
Ward, E., 107-8 
Waijawa, The, 87 
Watsford, Rev. John, 29, 31 
Western Mongolia, 113 
Whaling, 36 
Wherowhero, 180 
Whispering Wind, 17 1-2 
Williams, F. E., 130-2, 133 
Winalagilis, 54, 55 
Wirra Garoo, 170-1 
WisniowiecU, 15 
Wonkonguru, The, 169-71 
Wotjobaluk, The, 168 


Xilonen, 47 


Yam Island, 168 
Yaqois, 56 

Yergum, The, 86, 88 
Yongolado, 97, 98, 99 
Yoruba, The, 89 


Zande, 113, 114 
Zandelande, The Sudan, 113 
Zanzabuku, 109, no 
Zingaris, The, 15 
Zulu, The, no 
Zumbohm, Father, 164 
Zumperi, The, 86 

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